Cooking, eating, and entertaining... it's why I collect recipes and share them. Plus I'm half Hungarian, which explains a lot.
Serving Soup Graciously
Warming, soothing soup—winter days are just made for serving a bowl of your favorite concoction of ingredients. The perfect way to serve it up is not straight from a saucepan or soup pot, but graciously ladled from a soup tureen, and that is what this presentation is about: finding a lovely soup tureen or two for your table.
How many of us have memories of our grandmothers using a pretty tureen to serve the mandatory first course of hot soup? It was traditional in my Hungarian grandmother's meals to have a beautiful transferware soup tureen filled to the brim with her wonderful simmering chicken soup. It started some truly memorable meals.
Unfortunately for me, my rambunctious boys broke that old tureen that I inherited, but that doesn't mean I need ever do without a good lidded container to serve a special recipe for this cold weather necessity. There are so many beautiful choices, and with eBay, even a way to replace a beloved antique. Enjoy the tour through the tureen aisle, and don't leave without putting one on your list for gracious meals that are in good taste (in more ways than one!).
What Is a Soup Tureen?
The origin of the word tureen, of course, comes from the French, who do all things comestible so well. A tureen is a broad, deep, dish that is used for serving foods such as soups or stews, often with a lid to cover and keep the contents warm. That, my friends, is the unvarnished way to describe the soup tureen, but the art of serving a good soup has made many tureens so much more than that explanation would imply.
Probably the tureen was originally simply an earthenware bowl, which is guessed from the root of the name in the French and even earlier Latin terms for "earthen".
These word roots became terrines or terrenes.
Some of the earliest known were made in the early 1700s (the 18th century). They were not only porcelain, but also silver serving dishes were used for the staple soups and stews of the day.
In France many of the fine silver tureens of the eighteenth century were melted down to finance wars, and are now very rare.
Today, a modern design is usually made in silverplate.
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Whimsical and Imaginative Designs
There are so many ingenious, even whimsical, designs for serving soup that it may be hard to make a choice! But whatever our dining décor, or favorite motif, there seems to be serveware to match. I had so much fun looking through the wide number of choices available, that it was hard to stop. Do you have a favorite? I still wish I had the brown transferware tureen of my grandmother!
The most common material for these serving containers are a type of ceramic or porcelain material, instead of silver metal, harking back to the original material for which tureens came by their name.
A tureen of either type is a way to ensure the soup stays hot at the table.
A custom that might be revived is serving soups in tureens that combine design with clues to the type of soup served, such as a tomato soup in a tomato red tureen.
Or a fish chowder? Yes, there were (and are) covered bowls molded in the shape of fish; a sure giveaway that seafood flavors awaited the hungry diner.
It seems that this particular serving piece retained the freedom of expression that modern tastes left by the wayside in most of the dinnerware designs. Perhaps because the large piece that holds that hot start to the meal doubles as a centerpiece. Few of us manage to create these table decorations for most of our meals, but the decorative holder in the amusing shapes or pretty colors makes a perfectly acceptable substitution
From the every day to the unusual, like the swan design above.
Recipe 1: German Beef Soup
- 2 lbs boiling beef (stew meat)
- 2 quarts water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 carrot quartered
- 2 parsley roots
- 1 potato
- 2 small onions
- 1 tsp. pickling spices (in teaball)
- pinch of Spanish saffron
- fine cut noodles
- Simmer beef slowly in water until almost done.
- Add the vegetables and pickling spices, cook until done.
- Remove spices and vegetables. Add saffron and cook noodles in broth.
- Add vegetables back in and serve hot.
All White Is a Modern Favorite
Soup for Summer?
People usually think of soup as a winter warm-me-up, and cozy cool weather fare, but soup can be served cold as the perfect dish for a hot summer evening. It is light and filling at the same time. Some classics for summer repasts are gazpacho, chilled yogurt soups, and fruit soups.
There are as many summer recipes as your heart might desire, all of which are great served in a lovely tureen. My Hungarian grandfather loved his cold cherry soup in the morning.
Recipe 2: Italian Wedding Soup
This recipe comes from Ina Garten.
For the meatballs:
- 3/4 pound ground chicken
- 1/2 pound chicken sausage with casings removed
- 2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 lightly beaten extra-large egg
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the soup:
- 2 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 cup minced yellow onion
- 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots)
- 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks)
- 10 cups homemade chicken stock
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars
- 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
- 12 ounces washed and trimmed baby spinach
- To make the meatballs, combine the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and mix with hands. Drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes until browned, set aside.
- For soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender.
- Add the fresh dill and the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.
The famous blue and white design "Blue Fluted" porcelain is one of the most popular designs and is still hand painted.
The Danish blue and white patterns of Royal Copenhagen are perhaps my all time favorite designs for porcelain, or even any type of ceramic or porcelain. Its combination of detail with simplicity in what is an ideal marriage of blue and white is a look I keep gravitating to, even though there are so many styles of tableware that I might say I love. ( "That one! No, That one!" mentality is at work here)
But the Danish have been at the art of refining design and picking out the aesthetic essentials for a long time, and it is a design sense that appeals to people living in our hectic modern age. At least that is my explanation for why this pattern has such longevity and popularity.
"Try this chicken soup, it is just like my grandmother's."
Recipe 3: Hungarian Soup (Csirke Leves)
This soup is like one my grandmother used to make.
- 1 large chicken (5 lbs)
- approximately 6 quarts water
- 6 carrots
- 4 stalks celery
- 1 parsley root and green leaves
- 1 onion
- 1 small wedge of cabbage
- 1 potato
- 1 small tomato
- 1/2 green pepper
- 1/2 tsp. saffron
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 2 -3 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon peppercorn
- Place chicken in water; bring to boil; skim.
- Add all vegetables and seasonings.
- Cook slowly for 1 hour or until the chicken is done. Strain before serving.
Recipe 4: Old-Fashioned Potato Soup
This old-fashioned potato soup is Pennsylvania Dutch style.
- 8 medium potatoes, diced
- 1 quart milk
- 2 tsp. slat
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 beaten egg
- 2 - 4 Tablespoon milk
- Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, drain.
- Add 1 quart milk to potatoes and heat. Blend in the salt and pepper.
- Cut butter into flour, blend in egg and milk using only enough milk to make mixture thin enough to drop into the hot soup.
- Drop by teaspoon into hot soup.
- Cover and cook about 10 minutes. Serve at once.
Victorian majolica is characterized by having molded shapes that are painted in colorful clear lead glazes. Italian tin-glazed pottery was colorfully painted on a white background. It was also called majolica ware.
The Mock Turtle:
"Beautiful soup, so rich, and green
Waiting in a hot tureen."
— The Mock Turtle in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
Transferware refers to patterns applied by transferring the print from a copper plate to a specially sized paper and then to the pottery. Transferware can be in patterns of blue, or brown, red, or other colors. Blue is probably the most common.
How About You?
Have a seat at the table, tell us your memory of soup and how it was served. What was your all-time favorite recipe? And do you something special to serve out your stews or soups?