‘Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colours, there are only so many flavours, it’s how you combine them that sets you apart.’ Wolfgang Puck
Each year in November Puisserguier, the neighbouring village just North of Capestang, runs the Soup Festival, where two dozen locals share their favourite soup recipes. The cook off begins at 18:00 where judges grade the soups on three different levels: smell & taste, consistency and originality. The community also grades the soups.
There are three winners in this contest; The Judges Choice, The Public’s Choice and The Children’s Choice! The Hungarians have won the public’s choice again, and for me, that’s the most important winner. In the end who are we feeding afterall.
After the the contestants ran out of soup, the festival continued with the local cult classic GRAND ORCHESTRE DES GOULAMAS who played to thrashing crowds. We all know the tunes, and love the energy of the band. They wear PJs and have a variety of characters on the stage entertaining us all with their funny antics and hilarious costumes. Two local children’s groups took a turn on stage before the grand finale!
#1 La campagnarde was a creamed vegetable soup paired with red wine which was particularly popular, with a lineup of people waiting to try. But it could have been because they were first on the list, or they were handing out wine with the soup, either way. It was interesting to mix the wine with the creamy soup, the pairing was genius. It was one of my favourites. It had ham and beans in it as well, in a thick pureed gravy.
#2 French Onion Soup, the classic recipe with cheese on top and bread, substituted with dry croutons for the purpose of the festival. It was good, but better as the night went on. When I tried it, the onions were not quite cooked through. I tried it again later when Alfonz arrived and it was much better and the flavours mingled more. It had too many cloves for my taste, giving off an almost cinnamon flavour. I prefer a splash of Sherry in my recipe and only thyme. Among the locals, it is French after all and the locals ate it up!
#5 Jope made this soup, and it was a recipe from Holland, which was very tasty. I had to get past the floating hot dogs in the soup, and I thought I tasted cabbage. It brought back a food memory and seemed very familiar with the small brown beans which added a rich flavour. It reminded me of comfort food from back home.
#10 Harira was noteworthy. It was another bean and ham soup, which was surprisingly very rich and stuck to your insides as it went down. Hearty, perfect for the season and was a strong contender.
#11 Clear beef broth soup with mixed vegetables, who was our neighbour which reminded me of the soup I make each week as a staple in my own home. A light, clear meat soup with seasonal veggies that are not over cooked. I added a wee bit of salt, and with pasta, this would make a great meal. This was one of my favourites, a classic soup for everyday!
#15 potato soup was rich and creamy, not too pasty and not too runny. A soup that is eaten all over the world, as it is cheap to make and always fills you up! I make mine with bacon, cream and celery and serve like a baked potato. Love potato soup! Almost as much as leek soup.
#16 Mixed garden vegetable soup, lightly creamed and was orange. I love anything that looks good when you eat it! Perfect for the Halloween gathering!
#17 Seafood soups, same as the above seafood based soup, not the best at these events because they should be served immediately and never warmed up again. Unfortunately these soups breed bacteria which in turn means they start to smell fishy after the first hour. Just because you are eating fish soup, not everyone has to know it! Too stinky!
#18 This tasted like a light Italian broth soup, oregano, and onions which was a happy treat at after a string of not so good soups.
#21 This was another hearty stew like concoction: creamy bean and agneau soup which reeked of lamb, but I like lamb. Alfonz couldn’t bring himself to try it unfortunately. When picking a soup for a contest, if it is an extreme flavour you rule out people that simply don’t like a certain flavour.
Most of the soups were autumn creamed soups utilizing all the seasonal vegetable; giant zucchinis, squash, pumpkins, turnips, beetroots, carrots, potatoes and many different beans. Some had cured ham, some had lamb, many were tasty and one was more like a dessert soup with fresh plum and cream served cold with cinnamon bread. I can’t remember the number. It was just weird to me although the bread had saffron on it, which I loved. Too ad for him it was not a baking contest!
This year my Hungarian gal pals kindly asked me to join in the fun in making country goulash soup with local cèpe mushrooms. Gulyás pronounced ˈɡujaːʃ/ is a Hungarian food staple, and served in everyone’s homes often, although the meat used and the recipes vary from region to region. This recipe is an infusion recipe between the classic Hungarian hearty soup recipe and the local popular cèpe mushroom that grow in the fields around us. This version of Gulyás Soup has all the regular culprits; carrots, celery, potatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, paprika but is slightly creamy with added whipped sour cream, and also has the added complexity of flavours from a variety of different mushrooms. Gabi, who found the recipe, decided to puree the onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes to give it an added texture. It really brought a smooth texture to every bite.
Zsuzsa, Marianna, Gabi and myself, started at 10:00 preparing the meat for the soup.
In essence you first make a traditional Hungarian Paprika, with 1/2 pork and 1/2 veal or beef.
Ingredients for a double recipe, large stock pot full!
- 1 kg stewing meat trimmed and cubed
- 4 large onions
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 3-4 tomatoes quartered
- 2 bell pepper large quartered
- 4 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 1/2 tbsp pepper
- 250-500 grams crème fraîche
- 2 tbsp olive oil or butter
- 500 grams mixed cepe and traditional mushrooms
- 4 big carrots
- 2 parsnip (white carrots)
- 4 big potatoes
- 2 celery sticks
- In a large skillet with lid, heat oil or butter and brown your onions on medium-low until golden brown
- Add in your garlic, tomatoes and bell pepper and sauté
- Add in your paprika, salt and pepper and mix well
- Add in your meat, mix and warm through
- Add 1/4 cup of water and cover on medium-low for 2-3 hours, adding a little water when you check on it to make sure it doesn’t stick. Stir occasionally.
- Once this is cooked, the meat will be soft like butter, then add in your mushrooms and cook for 15 minutes until the water leaves the mushrooms.
- Then it is time to raise the water level. I usually transfer to a big soup pot and raise the level so it is double the height of the meat and bring to a boil
- I add in all my soup vegetables, already chopped into bite size pieces: carrots, celery, and potatoes.
Homemade Dumplings, Pinchies or ‘Csipetke’
- 1 cup flour
- 1 beaten egg
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 2-4 tablespoons of water
Add all the ingredients into a mixing bowl. The dough should be stiff but still workable. It may need a little more water. Have flour on hand. Pinch off little bits at a time into a bowl with 1 tablespoon on flour at the bottom, about 1/3 smarty sized. The smaller the bits, the better. Continue, sprinkling with flour so they do not stick together. In essence these are fresh noodles. It is a bit of work, but worth it!
Once the Goulash soup is completely cooked, so the vegetables are cooked but not too soft, bring it back to a boil and throw in your ‘Csipetke’ . Once they float, about 5 minutes later, dinner is ready! Turn off your stove.
Serve with thick hearty bread like rye or potato bread. A dollop of sour cream on top, a splash of hot ‘Eros Pista’ or hot sauce too, gives it a nice kick.
When the ancient Hungarian people roamed the lands, they would cook Goulash dangling over open fires in cast iron pots. With the same simple ingredients they made these beautiful tasty meals.
This country version that won the Puisserguier Soup Festival for public’s choice had whipped sour cream mixed into the soup, making it a light red colour, like a paprikash. To add whipped cream, you must bring it to a full boil and when you add it in, you must mix it right away to avoid curdling. It balanced and complimented the local mushroom flavours, yet didn’t take away from the traditional robust flavour of the traditional soup.