Staying at home, meal hours have been shifted earlier with the children demanding a bit of variety from the regular meals. The catch is to keep it simple, nutritious and wholesome without using sugar as a lure. Which is why when there is an excess of bread going dry, soon added to the menu is bread soup.
As the namesake goes, “Bread soup” is essentially a simple soup mainly made of bread (stale preferred, white or brown) with the base being either as a meat or vegetable broth and the bread being either cut into pieces and then into the broth, or those little pieces being cooked with onions and spices in a broth and pureed. While scouring for new recipes, it was interesting to note that there were plenty of varied styles depending on the country and the local cuisine. While the origin may be traced to the Lenten days, it is no longer confined to them or even the cold winters. Bread soup is a welcome add to the menu, for quick dinners or light repast.
One of the famed bread soups is the, Acquacotta. A hot broth based bread soup with primary ingredients of water, stale bread, onions, various vegetables, leftovers and olive oil which came into the early local cuisuine of Maremma (southern Tuscany and northern Lazio). Records mention of agresto (juice derived from half ripened grapes) used in the earlier 1800s, till tomatoes took their place in the recipe.
Another famed Tuscan bread soup is the Ribollita. Originally dating back to the Middle Ages, this soup was originally made by reheating the leftover minestrone or vegetable soup from the previous day. Later on, this hearty pottage was made with leftover bread along with cannellini beans, kale, cabbage, carrots, beans, chard, celery, potatoes, onions or other vegetables of choice. For all those who love tomato in any form, there is the “Pappa al pomodoro” literally translated as tomato mush. This thick bread soup is prepared with fresh tomatoes, bread, olive oil, garlic, basil and various other fresh ingredients, served hot or chilled.
Bread soup per se, can include the addition of bacon, egg or cream. Millefanti, an Itlaian variation uses egg and Parmesan cheese. Certain recipes include wine and more rustic version, include addition of malt or beer. One of the specialities of Portuguese cuisine especially in the Alentejo region, is the Açorda. Made typically of thinly sliced bread with garlic, lots of finely chopped coriander, olive oil, vinegar, water, white pepper, salt and poached eggs. First a mashed coarse paste of garlic, coriander, salt are mixed with olive oil and vinegar; then poured over the bread. The poached eggs are then placed over the bread with the salted water used poured over with chicken stock added. Left to steam for a few minutes, the final dish may have a bright green touch. Other variations include the açorda are the açorda de marisco or camarão (made with shrimp) or açorda de bacalhau (codfish).
While one can go with the exotic touch for bread soup, keeping it simple gives its’ own rustic flavour. With the purchase of groceries being limited in the present locked down state, stretching provisions with inventiveness is the need of the hour. Which is why in the hunt of simple new recipes, sprucing up old ones and keeping to home grown ingredients get an upper hand. With all these in mind and the summer fruit slowing coming through, inventiveness and resourcefulness help to give sparkle to the stay-at-home days. For these occasions give photographic memories and moments for the next generation, realized in retrospection over the span of time.