Savory porridges and brothy soups: How to eat healthy and also draw down your overstocked pantry
May is typically the month when we break out of our comfort foods rut and usher in spring’s bright and lively ingredients, but at this point many of our pantries have been transformed into bunkers of overstocked food staples. After sheltering at home for almost two months, we’re probably getting tired of round-the-clock cooking and catering to everyone’s personal food preferences and unique dietary requirements. Our fascination with legumes is definitely beginning to wane.
Savory porridges and brothy soups are an easy way to solve this dilemma. Not only are they addictive, they also inspire infinite variations: each individual bowl can be customized to-order with a variety of added flavors, colors, and textures. Just add almost anything from your stockpiles of food and call it a meal.Savory porridges and brothy soups are an easy way to solve this dilemma. Not only are they addictive, they also inspire infinite variations: each individual bowl can be customized to-order with a variety of added flavors, colors, and textures. Just add almost anything from your stockpiles of food and call it a meal. No matter where on the globe you grew up, they have always been go-to remedies for almost any ailment, particularly because each bowl is soothing and highly nutritious. Right now, many of us are still trying to prevent, or recover from, illness and probably craving foods long thought to be curative. Just remember, when composing your own porridge- or broth-based meal, the pattern is always the same:
Make the base (large batches of broth or porridge can be made ahead and frozen)
Add any protein
Stir in lots of colorful veggies (leftovers, particularly combos of roasted veggies and sautéed greens, work well here)
Embellish each individual bowl with your choice of global flavors and umami add-ins: Sriracha (or preferred hot sauce) or a flavored oil; pickled veggies or kimchi; miso or something funkier like fish sauce; even coconut milk + peanut butter for a kid-friendly Thai curry variation
Add some extra crunch with a sprinkle of thinly sliced scallions, chives, fresh herbs, sesame seeds or chopped peanuts
When we think of porridge, oatmeal and grits (or the occasional risotto) come to mind; but despite its monotonous reputation, porridge can be far more satisfying than the gluey mass of gruel we grew up with.
Porridge can be made with any grain, or even a mixture of various grains like farrow, quinoa, millet, and amaranth, as long as it is cooked low and slow to release the starches and create something ultra-creamy (feel free to experiment). For low and slow cooking, porridge should be made with a 5:1 (or higher) ratio of water to grain so the ending result does not come out gloopy. Just cover and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, before embellishing with add-ins. Slow cookers and Instant Pots are perfect vessels for making porridges. If you want a one-pot meal, nestle chicken breasts or thighs directly in the pot and simmer alongside the porridge.
There are so many reasons why a brothy soup should always begin with a homemade broth. Sure, canned, or jarred broth, or even the occasional bouillon cube, will do in a pinch, but the real thing is simple to make, budget-friendly and far more satisfying to the body and soul. Any broth begins with scraps, like veggie scraps, meat, fish, or seafood bones and carcasses (or dried bonito flakes if making a Japanese dashi). For any broth, save all your scraps and freeze them in freezer bags until needed, including your veggie scraps (mushroom stems, leek greens, tomato peels, ginger, garlic, kombu, etc.). Do not forget to keep an assortment of aromatics (like thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, and more exotic spices like star anise, if making a Vietnamese pho). Below are recipes to get you started: