Difference Between Soup and Stew
What is the difference between soup and stew? When does a very chunky soup become stew and when does a very watery stew become a soup? Read on and all will be revealed!
All About Stews
If you have ever wanted to know more about stews, here’s the low down on this popular dish that never goes out of fashion.
What is Stew?
To make a stew, you get a selection of solid food ingredients and cook them in a type of liquid. The whole dish is served together and the liquid is expected to thicken somewhat so that if forms a gravy-like consistency. The solid elements can be meat (beef, lamb, pork or poultry) and this cooking method is especially suitable for the tougher cuts of meat that require a long period of cooking such as beef shin. After prolonged cooking, these cuts become tender and juicy. Meat that has marbling from connective tissue makes the juiciest stews. Because these cuts are usually the cheapest, stewing is a highly cost-effective way of cooking meat.
Just about any vegetable can be used but carrots, potatoes and onions are very popular followed by beans and mushrooms. Vegetarian stews that are based on beans and lentils also work very well. You can even make stews from seafoods.
The liquid element is predominantly water with seasoning and flavorings such as tomato paste and herbs and spices can be added to suit your taste. A stew is cooked for a long period of time, typically several hours, and at a low temperature so that the flavors can fully develop. A lid is placed on the top of the cooking vessel to keep retain the moisture. If you feel that the liquid part of the stew is too runny, you can thicken it by adding corn flour before you serve. Alternatively, you could coat the pieces of meat with flour and sear them before adding to the stew pot or even make a roux using oil and flour and then adding the liquid to make a gravy before the cooking process starts.
The History of Stews
Stews are not a modern dish – they have been eaten by humans for thousands of years. The oldest reference to a stew comes from Japan and dates back to 8th century BC. It refers to cooking animal flesh (meat) in water over a fire made from bones. Amazonian tribes are also known to have cooked turtle meat in turtle shells whilst adding other ingredients. Roman cookery books include recipes for lamb and fish stews and Le Viandier, an ancient French cookbook also has recipes for several different types of stew.
Some well-known types of stews include Beef bourguignon from France (beef stewed in red burgundy wine), Beef Stroganoff from Russia, Cawl (lamb and vegetable stew) from Wales, UK and Chilorio which is a pork stew originating from Mexico.
All About Soups
There is nothing nicer than a warm soup on a cold day, but there is a lot more to this simple dish that you may realize!
What is Soup?
Soup needs to be primarily liquid but can be a complete meal in itself, if it has sufficient ingredients. It can be served warm, hot or cold. It’s very simple to make, you simply combine the vegetables with liquid and boil it up for a while. Some recipes require you to ‘sweat’ the vegetables in an oil (often butter) before you add the liquid. Some soups can contain meat or even fish.
Soups can also be categorized as clear (consommé and bouillon) or thick. Thick soups can be thickened in a number of ways and are classified as bisques soups (often made from shellfish and thickened with cream), cream soups (thickened with béchamel sauce) and veloutés (thickened with cream, eggs and butter). Just about any ingredient can be used in soups including lentils, carrots, potatoes and oxtail.
The History of Soup
Soups have been around since at least 20,000 BC so they are even older than stews! Once humans had discovered waterproof containers, they could cook food by boiling it. Clay vessels were probably the first soup pots and heat was provided by hot rocks.
The name soup is derived from ‘soupe’. This is the French word for ‘broth’ and has its origins in the Latin word suppa (bread dipped in broth) although the Germanic word “sop” is a piece of bread that is used to dip into broth.
The origin of the word restaurant is also connected with the history of soup. It means “restoring” and was used to describe a concentrated but inexpensive soup which was sold by street vendors to restore tired travelers in the 16th century.
Here in the US, a cookbook published in Virginia in 1742 included several soup recipes. In 1772, a cookbook called The Frugal Housewife, had a whole chapter on soup making. Soups from the UK dominated the early colonial soup-making in the US but immigrants from other parts of the world soon brought their own recipes. The German immigrants brought potato soups and the French brought clear soups.
Soup can be served as a starter before the main dish or as a lunch dish in its own right. However, it can also be served as a dessert. Some examples of dessert soups include Chè, a Vietnamese cold dessert soup made with sugar and coconut milk and Ginataan which is made from coconut milk, fruits and tapioca pearls. Fruit soups can be served hot or cold.
Gazpacho and vichyssoise (puree of leeks, potatoes and cream) are served cold. Asian cuisine uses tofu in soups but many are clear broths.
The Last Word…
Stews and soups are very similar and there is no definite distinction. As a general rule of thumb, stews have less liquid, are thicker and need to be cooked for longer. Soups are always served in a bowl but stews can be served on a plate Stews are invariably served hot but soups can be hot or cold. If you are wondering is chili a soup or stew – using these rules it would be called a stew. But at the end of the day, if you have found a dish that you love, just enjoy it and don’t worry about what to call it!