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To Purée or not to Purée - Soups, That Is

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So I'm making this Split Pea Soup...

2012_12_19 Split Pea Soup Pre Puree.JPG

And I'm wondering about serving it just like it comes out of the pot? Of course I'd remove the ham hocks and add the meat on those trotters back to the soup, but I wouldn't purée the soup.

Or, to be a bit more sophisticated, I can run the soup through a mill or blender to serve it as a fine purée - and make a garnish out of perfectly diced ham or crispy bacon bits - something along those lines.

I guess the same question could be asked about any number of soups made from pulses or legumes. Bean soups, lentil soups, etc.

Normally, at home, I'm pretty lazy and just serve the soup as it is. But when traveling recently, we had some fine vegetable soups and legume soups that were served as purées and they were delicious. And they taste like a whole different thing, all smooth and almost airy.

Anyway, which do you prefer?

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either :-)

But if you just make this for yourself and family, why not try both and compare? I can't imagine it would taste any different, but maybe blending/pureeing will mix the flavors together even more? Mine taste different since I would add butter or cream after pureeing, which doesn't work that well with a watery soup.

It's also a different presentation, to me a blended soup with a little bit of garnish is more "fine dining" and a soup like in your photo speaks rustic to me. I love both, so I don't care, but at a fancy restaurant or if you make a multi course fancy dinner, the blended one is probably the way to go. A drizzle of olive oil or cream on top, etc. If you serve a crunchy roast with roasted vegetables, I'd go rustic.

Now I want to make that side by side comparison myself!

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I like taking a stick blender to the soup and pulsing it a couple of times into a half puree like Emily. For split pea, a full puree is usually way too thick so I mainly just puree until the thickness is right, then stop.

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It's a mood (and a bit weather) related thing; when things are warm and sunny, I appreciate pureed soups, but when it's cold, dark, and stormy, I like texture and substance (unless my throat is being ripped raw by a strep thing, then 'texture' reads as 'torture').

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I'm with Emily R. Last night we had green lentil and spinach soup and it was 'arf'n'arf'.

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In general I prefer puréed soups. I put everything in the blender (with a thick towel on top to contain explosions!) or use a stick blender (which is handy, but there are always a few stray pieces left which drives me nuts).

Last night's soup was pumpkin, blended. I don't think I would have liked the broth (which was just the cooking liquid from the vegetables) with pieces of pumpkin floating. But there are soups that work well unblended.

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I generally prefer puree. Although, it would be neat to try a 1/2 n 1/2 variation that has a broth/chunk soup with an extra thick puree 'dolloped' on as garnish to stir in... or maybe I'm overthinking it...

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As others have noted, I also like the half pureed style most of the time. Either with the stick blender or just with the potato masher pushed down and around a bit. I prefer a completely smooth puree as a very small serving of something perhaps more single noted or delicate. As an example the amuse bouche the other night was a very tiny cup to sip of a spinach and mushroom soup that was completely smooth and a quick dose of essential mushroom. After that I get bored unless the soup is served with textural add-ins for contrast and maybe finely minced herbage for different flavor notes in various spoonfuls.

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I find that if you cook pea soup with the lid on the pot, the peas puree themselves. I don't know why, but it works. It works to some extent with other legumes, but split peas just seem to disintegrate very quickly with the lid on

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It depends on the soup, the weather, the mood I'm in.

Your split pea and ham hock soup, I certainly wouldn't purée. Some other soups half-and half; yet others require a full purée.

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Depends on the soup, more than anything. I'd half-n-half that split pea and ham hock, but if it were simply split pea (without any bits of meat for interest) I'd be very tempted to purée it and then serve it with either popcorn or chifles for textural contrast.

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Well, the ham hock turned out to be just a flavor enhancer - there was barely any meat on them bones, and what I picked off I basically ate while I was doing the picking :rolleyes: .

I don't understand the "half and half" theory. If I'm going for a purée, then I want the whole darn thing served as a purée, otherwise it's still just a rustic soup, no?

In any event, what I ended up doing with this batch was to run it through my food mill, in theory making a lovely purée. However, there was still some tiny textural thing going on after doing this so to make a totally smooth purée, I think the soup needs to be run through the blender first and then through a food mill, or maybe even a chinois.

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It depends. My mood, what kind of soup, phase of the moon, what cuisine, etc. For me, "puréed soups" - or the half-and-half option mentioned by others - is associated more w/ European/Western cooking. One example of an extreme "half-and'half" soup I personally prefer is cream of mushroom (the more velvety the better) with definite distinct slices or pieces of mushroom in it, preferably still crunchy.

The split pea soup you ask about - personally I would not purée it. I would prefer that one the way it is as shown, even in the most high-falutin' restaurant - just serve it on elegant fine china in that case. :-)

I've made a pea soup with a specific German-family heritage (which I learned from a former colleague) using dried whole green peas** (skin-on) [i.e. NOT split pea] with carrots, chunked potatoes, ham hocks etc and the soup is specifically cooked such that the soup is "done" when the peas just begin to show the suggestion of splitting (and some of the skins are now floating off the peas into the still largely clear broth).

**(boiled in a saucepan for a short while then allowed to steep, covered, for a sufficient time before draining and cooking in another pot in fresh water with the other stuff)

Chinese-type soups: These are *seldom* smooth soups equivalent to "purées", in my mind, especially savory ones. I personally would not do almost any of them in a way other than "chunky". I posted some recently on the soups, dinner, lunch threads. Some sweet "dessert soups" (e.g. red bean or, especially, almond tea) might be closer to "smooth" soups.

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