Thursday, February 7, 2008

Soyer's Soup - Soup for the Poor, or Poor Soup

Alexis Soyer claimed that a meal of his soup once a day, together with a biscuit was sufficient to sustain the strength of a strong healthy man. Not everyone agreed. He was somewhat ridiculed in Punch, where it was said that Soyer's soup was not Soup for the Poor, but rather, Poor Soup!

Here is the recipe he published:

12-1⁄2 lbs leg of beef
100 gallons of water
6-1/4 lbs drippings
100 onions and other vegetables
25 lbs each of flour (seconds) and pearl barley
1-1/2 lbs brown sugar
9 lbs salt

So, lets see. If you divide the ingredients by 50 to put things in a more graspable framework, you'll quickly say, "where's the BEEF?"

4 oz. or 1/2 cup Beef
8 quarts water
2 oz. or 1/4 cup drippings
2 onions
8 oz. or 1 cup flour 8 oz. or 1 cup barley
1/2 oz. or 1 tsp. brown sugar
3 oz or 1/3 cup salt

I have tried this soup recipe two ways: The first interpreted the soup as a beef and barley soup, with nicely browned sliced onions in the thickened broth. I added a diced carrot, an enhancement, but rather modest. Bay leaf and pepper would have helped, but I refrained. The soup was a bit thin in flavor, but not what I would call "poor" at all. Browning the onions and meat with the sugar actually did bring out more flavor than I thought possible. A second version was faithful to the ingredients list, but the presentation was a bit different. Instead of thickening the soup with a flour-drippings roux, I used the flour, some drippings. a bit of the broth and an egg to make little flour dumplings. The soup was a broth made from the browned onions and meat, thickened slightly by the barley, with lots of small dumplings in each serving. Both versions were better than Campbells!

1 comment:

Robert W. Lawrence said...

I would like to start a mission to feed the hungry. Being a chef and restaurant owner over the years I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the poor and hungry. I worked for st. vincent de paul soup kithen in Norwich, Ct. during the late 90's while getting my as. degree in food service management. And it was here that I learned about the 1840-50 Irish famine, and how Alexis Soyer's idea saved thousands of lives. I would like to replicate his idea with a bit of a twist utilizing mobile kitchens through out the world serving a chicken and rice dish that so many people in this world eat. There would be variations of the dish in accordance to local and spices used. Simple but healthful. If your interested in my idea please email me at thank you for this opportunity to express my idea. Sincerely, Robert W. Lawrence