In soup recipes of Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking, the reader is often instructed to sieve to puree food multiple times with increasingly finer mesh. I suspect that such a sieve is rare these days even in UK or US. In such instances, I always use a blender instead. But, I'm not sure this is a right way to do this. Is one of the purposes of sieving to remove coarse particles ? What is the modern way to do this ?

  • The purpose of the sieving is to puree the food? Or to remove larger items? The wording's a little unclear, and without knowing the specific recipe, it's hard to say what the effects would be. – Joe Jan 15 '13 at 14:10
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    I think the question is: In the recipe, it is asked to sieve (push) the food though a smaller and smaller mesh. This would have a similar effect of blending, so if you use a blender, would you still need to sieve also. I think no, you do not have to, but it depends, do you want the soup to be more smooth if so, sieve also or get a 'better' blender. – Stefan Jan 15 '13 at 14:47
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    I want to know what types of ingredients are being "sieve[d] to puree"; it would be beneficial to specify to determine what method might be substituted for the sieve. – colejkeene Jan 15 '13 at 15:54
  • @nicoleeats: For example, in her recipe of CARROT SOUP (1) ,the carrots are shreded and cooked with the chopped shallot and the diced potato. Then, they are simmered with the stock. Finally, they are sieved. – Aki Jan 15 '13 at 16:23

The modern way is still to sieve.

I actually did this a couple of days ago. I made a sauce out of boiled onions, capiscums, chilli peppers, canned plum tomatoes, carrots, garlic, ginger and spices. This was then whizzed in a blender and sieved through a fine metal sieve to remove the pulp, seeds, large fibrous pieces that wern't blended.

It makes for a smoother sauce.

The fine metal sieves are fairly cheap and easy to obtain. There are also finer sieves made from plastic or even muslin you can also use.

The technical term seems to be chinois.

A food mouli: enter image description here

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    Thank you for answering my question. Elizabeth David suggested a device called mouli to sieve food in the book, although I cannot find such a device elsewhere. – Aki Jan 15 '13 at 16:37
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    A mouli is basically a hand held food mincer. If you have an electric blender it's far better and far less work than a mouli! Remember, Ms David's book was written some time ago (I have a copy) and some of the terms it uses is out of date. – spiceyokooko Jan 15 '13 at 16:39
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    Food mill and mouli is the same thing according to Wikipedia and it's the one pictured above. It mashes and sieves at the same time. Often it comes with 2–3 bottom plates with different hole sizes. Passing food through a mouli and a blender will not produce the same result. If you make a tomato soup for example, the bottom plate will catch the seeds in a mouli, but not in a blender. Consistency will be different. Julia Child once said that "There is something un-French and monotonous about the way a blender reduces soup to universal baby pap". – citizen Jan 15 '13 at 17:30
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    And that quote was preceded by a recommendation to use a food mill rather than a blender, in her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. – citizen Jan 15 '13 at 17:34
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    @spiceyokooko if you have starch in your food, there is a large difference. A blender chops up the cells, releases the starch, and your food ends up gluey. A device which presses the soft vegetables (as opposed to cutting them with a blade) breaks them apart at the cell borders, and the non-released starch within the individual cells swells with the liquid, resulting in a creamy feeling of your soup. The effect is easiest to notice if you try to make "mashed" potatoes in a blender, but it is also noticeable in foods with less starch. – rumtscho Jan 15 '13 at 18:18

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