Sopa criolla is a classic from my hometown, Lima. It’s a tasty comfort food but unfortunately not very kind to the gut. Apart from the Peruvian holy trinity of onion, garlic, and chilli, it has tomatoes, wheat noodles and milk. Gut bomb. Luckily, I found that making it gluten- and milk- free increases its digestibility without sacrificing flavour. Here’s my version of the soup.
Yield: 6 servings
- 3 tablespoons fat of choice (see notes)
- 600 – 800 g beef (see notes)
- 2 small red onions, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ají panca paste (or any chilli paste)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 2 litres beef stock
- salt and pepper
- 1 package (340 g) kelp noodles (see notes)
- 1/2 cup coconut milk or double cream (see notes)
- 6 poached eggs, to serve (see notes)
- dry oregano, to serve
- Fat of choice: Try choosing a stable fat for cooking, i.e. any kind of animal fat or coconut oil. “Vegetable” (read: seed) oils are highly unstable, and thus prone to oxidation. In addition, they’re packed with inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. We cook with ghee (clarified butter), coconut oil, tallow (beef fat) or bacon fat.
- Protein: Use minced beef if you’re in a hurry, chopped steak or stir-fry beef if you want a quickish meal, or cheaper cuts if you have time to cook it low and slow.
- Noodles:The noodles are optional, but I like this particular soup with them. The traditional version calls for angel hair pasta, which I’d never recommend. Kelp noodles are made from seaweed, and thus are grain-free, very low in calories, etc. You can use rice noodles if you want. Or spaghetti squash (hint: you can buy it in Harris Farms Markets, Broadway).
- Milky stuff: The original recipe calls for evaporated milk, again something I’d never recommend. If you don’t do dairy at all you can use coconut milk, if you’re fine with high fat cream, by all means use it! I try to make my milky stuff match my fat of choice to achieve a consistent flavour profile, i.e. coconut oil + coconut milk, or ghee + cream, or tallow + cream.
- Eggs: If you don’t know how to poach eggs or you’re too lazy to do it, use soft-, hard-boiled, or fried eggs. But the soup’s gotta have an egg on top.
- In a pot, brown meat in 2 tablespoons of fat. Reserve.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of fat and cook onions, garlic, and chilli at medium-low temperature for at least 10 minutes.
- Add tomato paste and tomatoes, cook for another 10 minutes.
- Add meat and stock. Dial the heat up until it’s boiling, then lower and simmer for 10 minutes if you’re using minced beef, at least 20 if you’re using a chopped tender cut, or 1 to 2 hours if you’re using a cheaper cut.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- If using kelp noodles, rinse and drain, add to the soup and stir. If using other kind of noodles prepare as per package’s instructions and add to the soup.
- Turn off heat, add milky stuff (coconut milk or cream), and stir.
- Serve with a poached egg on top, and sprinkle with oregano.