Help me improve this recipe...

Ok, I made this soup today, and it was good, but somewhat bland.

It’s “Chickpea soup a la Provencale” from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups that I picked up from the library the other day. I don’t want to violate copyright by posting the entire recipe, so here’s the major ingredients:

Chickpeas, soaked overnight
Chopped spinach
4 tablespoons herbs Provencal (thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, bay leaf) - I didn’t have those on hand, but I did have a mixture that called itself “herbs de Provence” that had some of them plus a couple of others.
10 cups water
Basically, you cook it, then run it through a blender - my blender’s not great, but it did the trick. When I tasted it, it wasn’t bad by any means - I did finish the bowl for lunch, then put the rest up to keep. It was much better with toasted/buttered french bread (but I couldn’t eat a whole loaf of bread as part of my lunch). I’d really like to take some in for lunch tomorrow at work, if I can figure out how to improve it some. I tried adding some salt to the bowl, but it didn’t make a noticable difference in the flavor (I really didn’t want to oversalt it though).

What could I add to this to improve it - either now, with it already cooked, or next time I make it?

Oh, one thing I wondered about was using good chicken or vegetable stock instead of the water to improve the flavor next time I make it.

First, definitely start with either vegetable broth or chicken broth. A couple of Knoff bouloin cubes, of either variety should work well.

Second, one of the pleasures, to me, of chickpeas, is their texture. Blenderizing chickpeas seems like ruining the main ingredient.

If you aren’t adverse, I’d add at least a handful of barely. And start with some diced onions that have been sauteed. Take some baby carrots and very thinly slice them. Do the same thing with a handful of string beans. Like the spinach, these things will cook away, leaving more flavor.

Herbs are fine. I’d certainly add both salt and pepper to the stock while it’s cooking.

If you want to blenderize it, then mush away.

In addition to the above, if you like the flavor of bay leaves, you might consider throwing in a couple of whole bay leaves and letting it sit in the soup for a while. Fish them out before serving, of course.

Starting with a vegetable stock or soup base will greatly enhance the taste, though.

I beleive the key to Provencale cooking is the quality of the herbs and their use. Look up how to make a Bouquet Garni and use that to help the flavouring next time. Also find the best herb de provence mix that you can get. As for the ready cooked soup, perhapse adding a teaspoon full of french soft garlic cheese to the hot soup before serving, and eat with good crusty bread, will help. A little fresh thyme or chopped chives would also do wonders sprinkled on top.

One of my personal habits is that every soup needs beer/wine/hard liquor. It just kind of seems to draw the favors out of everything and bring them together. But you don’t want to overpower.
My method.
Light broth/chicken noodle soup,or=White wine.
Cream based soups, half shot of good(ie very smooth) vodka.
Medium heavy/Minestrone=red wine.
thick soup/stew=bottle of strong beer.
Extra thick stew/chili= Bottle of strong beer + good shot of bourbon or rum.

As hroeder said, a good stock is the key to any good soup. If you have the time, make your own vegetable stock from a mirapois of carrots, celery and onions, and freeze any excess in quart containers. This would also benefit from a chicken stock, if you’re not vegetarian.

Well, this time around I was following the recipe pretty close. I think next time, along with a good chicken/vegetable stock, I’ll only blenderize about half of it - that will let me keep the texture of the whole chickpeas with the somewhat smoother blended portion. I do that with a black bean soup and the result is a good mixture.

Thanks for the suggestions, people. :slight_smile:

<Mihn> Add nutmeg! </Mihn>

Add a twist of lemon juice just before serving and stir well. The lemon juice will sharpen the flavors in the soup.

Toss in a chopped tomato, or two. I feel the acidity and flavor of tomatoes helps smooth and round out the flavors of most soups. They also fit right in with the rest of your provencal-style soup. Some basil wouldn’t hurt either.

It would if it were travelling at 2000 miles per hour.

wolfman, are you endorsing adding the alcohol to the soup, or drinking it along with it?

When in doubt, one for the soup and one for the chef. :slight_smile:

Another vote for using stock. In the Bodoni household, we buy something called Better than Bullion, which comes in squat round bottles, and is basically stock cooked down to a paste. It must be kept in the fridge after it’s been opened, but it is really great tasting stuff, and it seems to be far less salty than regular bullion. My husband and daughter don’t like very salty flavors, and I am supposed to keep my sodium consumption low, so this is an important consideration to us.

Sauteing or sweating a minced onion or garlic clove and addiing it to the stock always seems to improve any savory soup. Perhaps a diced rib of celery would help this soup, too.

Long-time professional cook checking in here. I am not a fan of using boullion or stock in most vegetable soups any more. In my opinion these things muddy the flavor of the soup and take away the special vegetal characteristics.

So two things. One, a tablespoon or two of butter swirled in at the end does wonders in carrying and marrying flavors.

Two, I’m willing to bet that the soup tasted much much better the second day. Soups, especially simple vegetable ones, alway taste better upon reheating. I wonder why; many ol’ Harold McGee has checked in on this.

Anyway, my two cents.

It can take quite a bit of salt to wake up a soup. Just keep adding salt until it tastes right.