The Soup Kitchen by Sam Brown

Once seen as a rather basic staple to fall back on leaner times, the humble soup has enjoyed a massive upswing in popularity over the past couple of years. In fact, soup has become downright trendy of late, and on reflection it’s easy to see why. Healthy, tasty, comforting and cheap: what’s not to love? It’s quite literally a recipe for hipster success! But, quite apart from the fact that they’re enjoying something of a fashionista renaissance, soups are also a magnificently simple yet elegant way to cater to large groups of people.

Simply by bunging a few handfuls of delicious ingredients together, you can effortlessly serve up a dazzling variety of wildly different menu options to suit all tastes. Will you go light and elegant, rustic and hearty, spicy and vegan or protein-rich and dairy-thickened…?

Well, why not offer a little of everything?

Given that Greek cuisine boasts more than a few such recipes to its name, an exciting soupbased
menu offers an ideal solution for delicious, hassle-free catering at any Greek-themed
dinner party, birthday celebration or wedding reception. The logistics of a DIY soup kitchen
are beautifully straightforward too – all you’ll really need are a couple of hired kettles and
ladles, and the rest pretty much takes care of itself.

Best of all, soups are such a versatile dish for any occasion: they’ll adapt perfectly well to
being served at more formal occasions, ladled into fine china bowls on tables draped with
crisp linens and classical laurel boughs. Alternatively, if you’re looking for more of a ‘street
food’ party vibe, they’re equally at home served into paper cups with napkins for catching
breadcrumbs!

Five top picks for a Greek-themed soup kitchen

Fasolada
We had to start here really, didn’t we? Not least because fasolada will need no introduction
to your non-Greek wedding guests: in terms of the nation’s best-known gastronomic exports,
it’s right up there with souvlaki and baklava!
But, far more than merely being comfortingly familiar, this delicious bean-based vegetable
broth is a wonderful choice for any group dining scenario where you want to cater to as wide
a range of tastes and diets as possible – it can easily (and indeed should!) be made entirely
vegan, without compromising one bit on taste.

Avgolemono
For a slightly more exotic offering, a silky avgolemono provides a lovely foil to the fasolada’s
down-home rustic charms. Lifted by summery lemon flavours but richly thickened with egg
and orzo, this chicken-based stalwart of the Greek ladle is certainly hearty enough to stave
off hunger all on its own – but, like pretty much anything in life, it’s even better when paired
with a side of crusty bread.

Fakes
The genius of this one for party catering – apart from the fact that it’s basically a superfood,
of course! – is that it’s very adaptable. At its most basic (and some would say most
delicious), it’s made simply with lentils, onions, garlic, tomato and vinegar: a warming,
complex, bright yet slightly pungent combination that’s incredibly moreish. If you want to jazz
it up still further, chopped olives and/or smoked herring can be added as it’s served, offering
an extra flavour dimension for any that fancy it.

Manestra
Another one that’s sure to be a hit with any vegans in your party, this is arguably the
simplest of all the recipes here to make: tomatoes, orzo, onion, oregano, and oil (plus a little
seasoning) are really all you’ll need to make a cracking version of this beautifully traditional
staple. In fact, the ingredients are so basic that it really pays to keep a close eye on quality
here, particularly when it comes to your tomatoes. Fresh-roasted or canned will both work
fine – but either way, the flavour profile of those juicy little superstars is where this soup
stands or falls, so don’t skimp on a bargain basement variety if you can help it!

Stifado
Ok, so this is potentially a bit of a cheat – it’s rather more a stew than a soup per se – but it’s
so unerringly popular (and, being a one-pot dish, it can be prepared and served in exactly
the same way as most soups) that it seemed silly to miss it out entirely. It’ll take a bit longer
to prepare than most of the other recipes here, but boy is it worth it for those that love an
intensely-flavoured, beefy kick: the richness of the sauce again makes it the perfect
accompaniment to a hunk of rustic, sesame-scattered Lagana bread torn up on the side.

_________

Today’s post has once again been kindly written by Sam Brown. You can follow and contact Sam via twitter.

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