Life is often frenetic and we want food that is comforting, uncomplicated and familiar. We want it suited for the season, our lifestyle and the rhythm of our home. Soup always fits the bill perfectly, whether it is big, bold and earthy, or chilli hot, or delicate and subtle.
Soup was once the pre-dinner course that was meant to add nutrition and quell the hunger. Soup was usually an inexpensive dish, and it took the pressure off of the more expensive main course to satisfy hunger after a day’s hard work. It was often made with left over vegetables or from the abundance of a seasonal harvest.
In fact, then and now, soup can be a meal in itself if we add toppings and small side dishes to compliment the soup. The only thing that is needed with these combinations is some well buttered crusty bread.
Think laterally when considering toppings – twirls of cooked pasta, chopped tomatoes tossed with olive oil, turmeric roasted chickpeas, confit tomatoes, toasted pieces of left over bread torn into pieces. Reinforce or contrast your soup’s taste, texture and temperature. Here are my suggestions for turning a bowl of soup into a delectable meal.
Tops and Sides for Soups
Cold Weather Soups
* Some garnishes are cooked for the last few minutes in the soup, rather than added when serving. Try asparagus tips, sliced mushrooms, slivered red capsicum, or a couple of spoons of tapioca.
* Go French with diced, shredded or julienned vegetables, or delicious buttery crisp croutons. Sauteed tomatoes and cooked rice is also very good.
* Rustic Vegetable Soup with rustic, torn pieces of crusty bread, toasted until crispy edged.
* Use pasta – vermicelli, spaghetti, or macaroni.
* Go wild with truffle shavings, or at least some truffle oil.
* Vegetables Soups topped with a large dollop of pesto.
* Add Asian vegetarian dumplings, rice noodles, or bean curd sticks or bows to thin brothy soups or Miso Soups .
* In fact, add Chinese or Japanese noodles to any thin soup. Mix through or they can be tossed in sesame oil and a few sesame seeds and used as a topping.
* Strips of nori or other seaweed, and/or caramelised ginger threads.
* Black Bean Soup topped with caramelised onions. Or toss pickling onions or shallots with olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper and then roast. Slice and top the soup with the roasted onions.
* A pile of spicy roasted carrots to add colour interest.
* Black Bean Soup with guacamole and sour cream. Shreds of preserved lemon are also very good.
* Fava Bean (dried broad bean) Soup with sliced fennel dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
* Cannellini Bean Soup with finely shredded red cabbage. Melt some smoked mozzarella on toast to serve alongside.
* Vegetable, lentil or bean soup with buffalo mozzarella, torn roughly.
* Pumpkin Soup with crispy fried onion rings, or the crispy onions you can buy at Asian and SE Asian groceries.
* Mushroom Soup with sour cream and chopped parsley or dill. Drizzle with Olive oil.
- Sweetcorn Soup with fresh sweetcorn kernels.
* Potato Soup topped with fresh sweetcorn kernels.
* Asparagus Soup topped with grated parmesan and grilled.
* Green Vegetable Soup topped with olive tapenade or toasted pieces of olive bread.
* Take left over rice, toss it with some spices, and use as a topping. Or mix with tiny pieces of chopped red and green pepper, chives or spring onions, shredded carrot, peas (and whatever your heart desires) and top the soup with this gorgeous mix.
* Crispy slices of lotus root add a unique topping.
* Slices of red radishes. Bean shoots. Peas or sliced beans (quickly steamed).
* Cubes of tofu, sauteed, deep fried or baked until crispy. Cubes of store bought fried tofu are delicious in and on soups.
* Spinach Soup flavoured with nutmeg, with crostini and shaved parmesan pieces.
* Spinach Soup with quick grilled goat cheese on sour dough bread.
* Add a spoonful or two of kimchi to your soup.
* Make oils to drizzle over your soup. Whizz up some oil with chilli, or herbs, garlic and/or even some greens, salt and pepper, and drizzle over everything.
* Top with shredded young ginger for a healthy boost. Or shimeji mushrooms. Even sliced mushrooms, raw or sauteed, make a great topping.
* Any cooked bean or lentil adds excitement when spread over the top of a soup. Or blend the cooked bean or lentil to a paste with garlic, lemon, a little chilli, and dollop on the soup.
* Any Creamy Vegetable Soup with cooked mograbieh. Roasted Eggplant is also a good topping for a creamy soup.
* For Tomato Soup, top with a salad of raw tomatoes that have been tossed with basil or parsley, oil and balsamic or sherry vinegar. Onions, sliced, and marinated in a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar and a little water is also an excellent topping.
* Tomato Soup topped with feta cheese.
* Cauliflower Soup with a side of cooked pasta tossed with grated pecorino, parsley, olive oil and toasted pine nuts.
* Miso Soup with Chinese or Japanese noodles, orzo pasta or cooked beans.
Hot Weather Soups
* Vichyssoise topped with some baby leeks that have been slow roasted with a little light stock, olive oil, sea salt and pepper.
* Chilled Watercress Soup with an Orange and Black Olive Salad.
* Any Cold Soup can be topped with pomegranate kernels.