Provençal garlic and herb broth

February 12, 2011 at 1:37 pm (B plus, French, Necessarily nonvegan, Peter Berley, soup, Spring recipes, Winter recipes)


This recipe makes up the second half of winter menu number five from Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast.   Last January in Segovia, Spain I had a bowl of garlic soup that was quite satisfying.  It was a rich garlic broth with olive oil and little tiny tendrils of egg.  I was hoping that this provençal garlic and herb broth would be similar.  Berley’s head notes say this pungent broth (made from plenty of garlic and herbs) is a traditional hangover cure in southern France and Spain.  He seems to imply that it doesn’t normally have egg in it, because he says “to make it more substantial I enrich it with egg and serve it over croutons with grated parmesan cheese.”  I think it’s funny that he added more cheese to a menu that was already swimming in smoked mozzarella (from the bean salad).  But, nonetheless, I followed his instructions to a T.

Berley has you make a broth by simmering together 5 cups of water, garlic, sage leave, strips of orange zest, a sprig of thyme, and a bay leaf.  After fifteen minutes you’re supposed to strain out the solids and bring the broth back to a simmer.  Meanwhile you beat together 2 eggs with 1 tablespoon of oil, then add a bit of the simmering broth to the egg mixture to warm it.  Finally you add the warmed egg mixture to the saucepan and heat gently “until the soup thickens,” then season with salt and pepper.  Berley says to put a piece of toasted country bread (rubbed with garlic) in the bottom of each serving bowl and then ladle over the soup and sprinkle with parmean and parlsey.  The recipe is supposed to serve four.

I tasted the broth after straining out the solids, and it tasted like nothing.  Really.  Nothing.  So I added salt and pepper.  Still didn’t taste like much.  It was a far cry from the “pungent hangover cure” that Berley described.  So I took the soft cooked garlic cloves and put them through my garlic press and added the puree back to the soup.  Better, but the “herb” component was still weak.  I would have added more but I had no more thyme or sage.

I don’t quite understand what is supposed to thicken the soup.  As soon as I added the egg mixture to the simmering broth the egg clumped up into little tendrils, just like in the soup I had in Spain.  But even after a few more minutes on the stove the thickness seemed unchanged.

I served the soup over “croutons” as described, but even though I toasted the bread it ended up kind of soggy.  My Saarbruecken “country” style bread wasn’t hearty enough I think.  Still the bread and parmesan were nice, but not necessary.  For my second bowl I skipped the bread and cheese, and found the soup very satisfying.  I think it would go really well with a big salad or bowl of roasted vegetables.  Next time, however, I would try to make a more flavorful broth as the base.  I also might not add any sage, thyme, or strips of orange zest to the broth, as I didn’t think they added anything.  Instead I would add minced herbs or grated orange zest to the final soup.

Derek didn’t like this soup at all.  He had one small bowl (somewhat unwillingly) and then I finished off the other three servings!

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