Monday, 24 October 2011

Bacon Sandwich Soup!

Zuppa di Pane con Pancetta Croccante
Bread Soup with Crispy Bacon 

I hope the name of this posting irritated you- of course, that was my intention! But at the same time, why ever not call a soup that's most important ingredients are bacon and bread, a bacon sandwich soup? This is one of my favorite things this time of year and a frequent request from friends. It's healthy, quick, cheap and extremely yummy on a cold evening. Wanna know how to make it? Well, just keep on reading...

The best kind of bread to use for this is a very heavy, dark, malty, whole grain bread. Of course that is no problem here in Germany, but it really is not going to work as well with anything else. It is definitely NOT going to work with any of those soft loaves- please do not try that- I dread to think what that might turn out like!

This is a good way to make use of stale bread too- I am sure where this kind of recipe originated from in days of yore. The inspiration for making this came from a documentary I saw many years ago, which spoke of monks making a soup out of old bread that they boiled up with the malt they were brewing to make their medicinal beer and whiskey. I liked the sound of that!

Ok- let's get cracking here! First things first- fry the finely chopped bacon bits, about a handful for 2 people, in your saucepan until they are golden brown and crispy- you won't need any oil as the bacon has plenty of fat of its own. Whilst it sizzles away, finely chop a small carrot and a half stick of celery. Remove half of the bacon to use as a garnish and add the carrots and celery into the saucepan. Give them a good stir and put on the lid so that they start to steam and give off some of their own juices. Finely chop a half a clove of garlic and add this, together with a tablespoon of tomato paste. It's getting a bit dark and sticky now, isn't it? Don't worry- add a nice shot of cognac to the saucepan to de glaze it, or if you are cooking for children, just add a half a cup of water. The cognac is good though!!!

Stir everything well and get all of that good flavor up from the bottom of the saucepan. We are going to use a nice handful of parsley in this soup- so what I want you to do now is to take the stalks and chop them up very finely. Add those now as they will take a little more cooking than the leave- but they have a whole lot more flavor!

Now finely dice 2 slices of bread and add them to the saucepan- and stir like crazy! Add another cupful of boiling water and keep stirring- the bread should start to lose its shape and become a thick paste. Add more water and keep repeating the procedure until you have a smooth paste. Think of it as the way you would make a risotto. Season with salt, pepper, a little hot paprika powder and a hint of nutmeg. I also add a good splash of milk to mine- it gives it a slightly creamy and milder taste which is nice. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Whilst the soup is gently simmering, finely chop a spring onion and the parsley leaves. Add these to your soup and give it a further 3-4 minutes. Check to see if it needs any more seasoning- it should have more than enough going on with those ingredients for just 2 bowls of soup though... and I am sure you will find it is really delicious!
Serve with a few finely chopped chives and the crispy bacon bits and get warm and cozy no matter what the weather outside! Talk about comfort food! On the other hand... don't just talk about it- get into the kitchen and make some!

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