There are two types of soups in India -those that are more like Western soups, full flavoured and hearty and eaten by the bowlful, and subtle, almost bland soups served in small amounts almost like a hot vegetable beverage or healthy shot of goodness. I am really interested in the latter, and they are still quite controversial. Although being around for at least 100 years, they are not common but also not rare. Being fairly regional, there are many who deny their existence. But there you go – even Meenakshi Ammal has soups in her classic Cook and See volumes.
So I collect a range of them – they are delicious even though they are relatively bland (ie unspiced) compared to other Indian food, although they are still full of flavour. Subtle. Well cooked. Healthy. (I sip and sip them.) Reading the very simple recipes for these soups, I think “no way will this work” but the results are always wonderful.
This one is interesting in that it is based on a “white sauce” – not the western flour-roux sauce, but a puree of potato, cabbage, onion and white pumpkin or yam. On this is layered corn kernels. It is flavoured with only salt and pepper! A real shot of vegetable goodness without the distraction of spices. The base is one that you could use for different soup varieties. The sweet crunch of the corn against this base is delightful.
Indian Sweetcorn Soup
small piece cabbage
one white onion
small piece white pumpkin, white yam or even butternut (although it will colour the sauce yellow)
1.5 cups sweetcorn kernels
1 Tblspn butter
0.5 onion, finely sliced or chopped
1 tspn black pepper
sea salt to taste
coriander leaves, to garnish
Simmer the white sauce vegetables with sufficient water until soft. Allow to cool a little, and blend about half the vegetables with the cooking liquid in a food processor or blender until smooth to make the white sauce. Alternatively pass them through a sieve. (See notes below.) The remaining vegetables can be discarded.
Take 1.5 – 2 cups of the white sauce – make up to the required amount with water if necessary. The rest can be kept in the fridge or frozen for use in another soup.
Steam the sweetcorn kernels until almost tender, drain, reserving the cooking water. Add the cooking water to the white sauce. Then saute the kernels in butter with the sliced onion until the onion is soft and translucent.
Add the corn to the white sauce and simmer for 3 minutes. Season with sea salt and pepper and simmer again for 5 mins.
Serve in small bowls or tiny heat proof glasses with coriander leaves.
recipe notes and alternatives
If you blend the white sauce with all of the potato it can be a little gluggy due to the potato starch. If you prefer, either sieve the vegetables instead or remove the potato, sieve or mash it and blend the other vegetables. Combine in a saucepan to make the white sauce.
For a very different soup, simply strain the vegetables and use the water as stock for the soup. Continue with the recipe.
The white sauce can be thinned with milk or water if necessary.
I add a little parsnip to the vegetables in Winter.