Ask Peter: Soup additions
Can you suggest something a bit different to serve with soup – I resort to bready things mostly – grilled cheese/garlic bread etc but would like to serve something other than bread to make more of a meal of soup – to give it a touch of something different. Charlie
What I love about soups is also what I love about stews – lots of chunks of things (whether it be vegetables, meatballs, meat, fish or grains) cooked in a wet environment for a good amount of time to give a well balanced meal.
Obviously in summer, and with cold soups like gazpacho or ajo blanco, this is not the case but come winter, when you’re serving a bowl of ribollita or a chunky lentil soup, it’s really just a few ingredients away from being a stew. And because of this you can serve a soup rather like you would a stew.
Who’s to say you can’t simply ladle a soup over cooked rice or some other grain and serve it as a main course? I’ve had times when I’ve made a soup for four and then a few extra folk turn up for supper and suddenly I’ll throw some chunks of parsnips and kumara in the oven and roast till golden and ladle the soup over this. Or I’ll quickly make a simple risotto with perhaps some saffron and spinach and put this in one half of the bowl and ladle the soup in the other.
It’s sort of a main meal or lunchtime size depending on the soup itself. As a child I was a huge fan of tinned tomato soup – reheated with a dash of runny cream added and then, if we were feeling flash, we’d sprinkle on grated hard cheese and serve with towers of hot, buttered white toast.
I can remember the taste of that as I type – such was the lovely balance of tangy tomatoes, buttery toasty toast and the sharpness from the cheese.
These days, if I were trying to make it more substantial, I’d likely serve with cheese scones made with smoked paprika or chopped walnuts added, or even a slice of pizza. I might also quickly roast until golden, boneless chicken thighs rubbed with chopped ginger and a little honey, then slice them 5mm thick and place in the bottom of the soup bowl. A few medium-hard-boiled eggs, grated, and mixed with parmesan make a great addition too.
A hearty lentil and kale soup can be made more ‘main course’ by serving with grilled lamb chops. Simply sit the chops in the soup bowl, and dollop on thick yoghurt and sprinkle with shredded mint and a little sumac.
A fish soup can be made more intriguing by adding a few chopped tinned smoked oysters or strips of sliced smoked salmon, and noodles. I often add cooked soba (Japanese buckwheat) noodles or green tea noodles (cha-soba) to soups and broths – it transforms them into something akin to a bowl of ramen or laksa.
I guess the thing with soup is that it is, at the end of the day, a bowl of wet food, even when thick and chunky. So you either need to play to that and serve it with something you can dip into it (why toast and cheese on toast are so common) or you need to turn it into something else – like you would a stew.
Leftovers are also good of course – and after your Sunday roast (if such a thing still exists and I hope it does as it is such a lovely family get together) any remaining veggies and meats, sliced and chopped into fat slivers, can be reheated in the oven until a little crispy and then poured on to soup. It’s a meal that just keeps on giving!
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.