Sunday, 20 January 2013

Oh Crumbs- It's a Soup!

Zuppa di Funghi con Salvia, Cipolla, Orzo e Pangrattato
Mushroom Soup with Sage & Onion, Barley & Toasted Bread Crumbs

"Just how much comfort-food can you possibly want to eat?" you may ask- well, the answer is: if it continues snowing and I don't get over this cold... quite a bit! It's another CHILLY day in Frankfurt... the snow blizzard has stopped, only to be replaced by heavy sleet. I need all the comfort I can get!

I love food that tastes wholesome and comforting, but that doesn't mean it has to be heavy and fatty- like some comfort food tends to. This soup here is made from a handful of barley, a handful of mushrooms, a tablespoon of flour to help thicken it and just a few fresh herbs and vegetables. I added a sprinkle of bread crumbs and cheese on top from the classic 1970's French onion soup idea with those floating slices of toast with waaay too much cheese on- that are impossible to eat anyway! Nope- I have the comfort factor without the silliness. You might just lie it if you try it!

The first thing I did was to make a fine dice of carrot, Spring onion and celery- including a few leaves and to sautée them in a little olive oil. As soon as the white parts of the onion were translucent, I added the barley- just a handful per person (ME in this case ;-) ) and i finely chopped mushroom. I used brown mushrooms here, but you can use whichever you have handy or prefer. As soon as the mushrooms had softened and the barley was shiny and glistening with oil and vegetable juices, I added a little boiling water, just enough to cover everything, and let the vegetables and barley absorb it... this took just a couple of minutes- and then I repeated the procedure... but in the meantime, I sliced up another 2 mushrooms and got to work on preparing the real flavor base for the soup...

In another saucepan, I sautéed the sliced mushrooms with a couple of large Sage leaves which I chopped very finely, a little onion, a little garlic, salt, pepper, a hint of nutmeg and a pat of butter. Once the mushrooms were soft and beginning to brown, I dusted them with a tablespoon of flour, stirred it in well and then added enough milk, little by little, until they were well coated. I reduced the heat to a low simmer and turned my attention back to the barley...

The barley had by now almost doubled in size and absorbed all the water, so again, I added more hot water and then seasoned this too, with salt and pepper. This time I added twice as much water as I had barley- as well as the contents of the other saucepan. Now- all of those little bits and pieces had suddenly become a yummy soup!

Of course this still needed to cook a while- so I left it for a further 10 minutes at a low heat. In the meantime, I took a good pinch of bread crumbs, the same of some grated cheese, added a little salt, pepper and olive oil to it and stirred it together.

Once the soup was ready, I added a last little sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley and sage, a little black pepper and sprinkled the bread crumb and cheese mix onto the center. I popped it under the broiler for 3-4 minutes for the cheese to melt and the crumbs to become golden and crispy... mmmm! And then I dug straight in! And I know you will too- it's pretty good on a cold day like this as well as being healthy! Enjoy!

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