We love books in our house so Tony and I usually end up at our local bookstore every weekend. I have a habit of perusing the bargain section looking for any useful cookbooks, and few years ago I came across The Soup Bible (Debra Mayhew, Ed.). This is now my go-to cookbook on a cold winter day. The book has a great collection of soups from all over the world and every recipe we've tried has been great.
This Chicken Almond soup is quick and easy to make and is very filling when served with some nice crusty bread. This soup, although pureed, does have a thick "texture" thanks to the ground almonds. I've modified the original recipe to cut down on calories and fat without loss of flavor
4 Tbsp EVOO or EVOO and sweet butter
1 leek, chopped
1/2 tsp grated ginger
2/3 cup lightly toasted blanched almonds, finely ground
1 tsp kosher salt
a few grinds of black pepper
1 med sized fresh jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped
1 medium carrot, grated
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 cup of cubed, raw, skinless, boneless chicken breast
2 cups water
1 cup low fat evaporated milk
chopped cilantro for garnish
- Heat oil in a deep pan or wok. Add ginger and chopped leeks, saute until soft.
- Lower heat and add almonds, salt, pepper, chopped fresh jalapeno, carrots, peas and chicken.
- Cook until veges are tender and chicken is completely cooked. Stir in 2 Tbsp cilantro.
- Cool mixture off heat until cool enough to go into blender or food processor. Process mixture briefly, add 1 cup water and blend again, add remaining water and pulse 20-30 seconds. (Mixture will not be completely smooth)
- Pour mix back into a pan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and add milk gradually, stirring until blended. Simmer 2-3 minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
I have a lot of bowls - white, blue black, red, big, small, deep, shallow, round square and even octagonal. It comes with the territory when your shooting food. But I made up my mind before Jhan even starting cooking that I wanted this soup in a simple white round bowl - so that's what this soup got.
Overall, this was a very simple setup. The only thing I was doubtful about was the table cloth. I knew the soup would be a greenish-brown color, so I went with a green table cloth, but I think a white on white set up would have made the color of the soup stand out more.
The dollop of 'sour cream' in the center of the bowl is actually cream cheese mixed with water to resemble sour cream. I added course ground pepper on top for texture. I also added a couple of slices of Jhan's fresh baked bread to add a different color and textural tone.
The biggest problem I had was that I filled the bowl in the kitchen and then carried it into the studio. In the process, I couldn't help but tilt the bowl a bit and that ended up leaving a ring with this thick soup.
Lighting and Photography
Lighting for this shoot was very similar to the bread shoot (they were done only an hour or so apart), but had very different effects on the food and provided very different results.
Where I loved the lighting for the bread, the lighting for the soup proved problematic. Sure, overall, the images came out OK, but they don't have either the warmth or punch of the bread shots.
The only real difference in lighting in this shoot was that I moved the ceiling bounce light from directly over the dish to directly over the photographer - placing it a bit in front of the dish. Otherwise, the lighting is identical, but the effects aren't. In most of the images, the lighting seems a bit flat and dull - uninspired, I guess.
Well, I didn't learn much about lighting in this shoot other than what works great for one subject can fall flat for another.
The main lesson I learned in this shoot was to fill bowls with soup in the studio so that so rings form from the soup sloshing as it's carried from the kitchen to the studio.