I still think people think of soup without much enthusiasm. A sort of ‘It’ll do’ food, but not one that they’re going to get excited about eating. But, as with other foods we eat with a spoon, like porridge or yoghurt, you need to think of it as a base, a blank canvas if you will. These foods don’t have any bite so will leave you unsatisfied on their own. This is where your additions and toppings come in. Once you start thinking about making layers of flavour, texture and temperature, you’ll quickly transform your bowl into something a bit more special.
Unlike porridge and yoghurt, which are bland and plain and need a lot of extras to make exciting, soup, if you have a good recipe, should already be full of flavour. With soup it’s more about adding some texture, something to bulk it out and something crunchy to chew on. Crusty bread is, of course, essential for dunking, but when you throw an egg on top and some toasted seeds, as I have here, you’re going to make things all the more appealing. Other things I like adding to soups are cooked rice, grains, lentils, beans, nuts and cheese. It’s also a good chance to use up any leftovers, as I did yesterday when I threw in some shredded roast chicken and the last dollop of fridge-cold ricotta that needed eating. I’m also planning on making it again soon with some fried prosciutto or pancetta bits for sprinkling.
Time to elevate your soup people.
NOTE: I used a mild chicken stock when making this recipe, which was not very strong in flavour. To boost the flavour I added two teaspoons of vegetable bouillon. If you are using a stronger, saltier stock you may wish to reduce this and perhaps use less salt.
Pea, mint and ricotta soup
Olive oil or butter, for frying
2 small cloves garlic, or one large, minced
2 shallots, sliced finely
1 ½ sticks celery, chopped finely
700g frozen peas
600ml chicken or vegetable stock
8-10 sprigs of mint, leaves only
2-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vegetable bouillon (see note above)
3 pinches of salt, or to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 tsp caster sugar
Toasted seeds or nuts
Herby croutons (recipe coming soon)
Crispy pancetta or prosciutto
Shredded roast chicken
Cooked rice, grains and lentils
Heat a glug of oil or a nob of butter in a deep saucepan and sweat the garlic, shallot and celery until translucent, being careful not to let them brown.
Add the peas and stir, then cover with the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 4-5 minutes until the peas are soft.
Transfer everything into a high-speed blender (depending on the size of your blender you may need to do this in batches) and blend until completely smooth. Add all of the other ingredients and blend again until combined. Taste, adding more mint, salt and pepper if it needs it.
Serve with warm crusty bread and see above for more topping ideas.