Help me not have to eat a giant vat full of tasteless mush
January 3, 2010 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Help me save this giant pot of soup I just made!

So, I got a dutch oven for christmas and have been experimenting with making massive pots full of stuff. I just tried a recipe for lentil barley soup,'s mush. Just totally bland. There is a TON of it, at least six servings. It is currently sitting there on my stovetop, lurking, mocking me.

Here's what I put in-
Low-sodium chicken broth
worcestershire sauce
black pepper
sauteed onions
sauteed garlic
lemon juice
a bit of tabasco

(This is what the recipe said to use- I got it from Epicurious.)

It tastes like nothing at all! Can anyone suggest something/things I can throw in to add some interesting flavor to it? It'd be an awful lot of food to waste, but I just can't see eating it as-is because right now it tastes like starchy mush with tabasco. Doesn't have to be vegetarian, and I have a pretty well-stocked pantry in terms of the Basic Elements of Food to use.

Thanks, everyone- my taste buds and food budget will appreciate any advice you've got!
posted by Dormant Gorilla to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Salt. A lot of it. More than you think you'd need. Low-sodium broth tends to be really flavorless, so you have to put that flavor back in.
posted by decathecting at 3:45 PM on January 3, 2010 [7 favorites]

What kind of lentils? I imagine they are already mush, or thickener by now, the barley still holding?

the lack of ratios of ingredients isn't helpful, nor is the cooking time, temps.

HOW mushy?
posted by Max Power at 3:50 PM on January 3, 2010

I'd second the salt (add some, taste, add some more, taste, and stop when you think you're good), but with the cumin and black pepper as seasonings, and lentils, you've got an Indian vibe going there. Try cardamom (if you have it), coriander, or cinnamon.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:50 PM on January 3, 2010

1) Freeze half of it right away and use it as a base in future soups and stews. If you get lots of great suggestions in this thread, you'll have a variety of ways to transform it.

2) To the remaining half, add any or all of:

- cooked ground meat
- a mix of curry spices, sautéed in oil to enhance flavour
- canned tomatoes: this will be reduced and more intensely flavoured if you cook it in a slow oven -- maybe 325 or 350 F -- for a couple of hours.
posted by maudlin at 3:51 PM on January 3, 2010

You could try adding V8 or another brand of spicy tomato juice--and plenty of salt to taste.
posted by Meg_Murry at 3:51 PM on January 3, 2010

Salt, sure.

Other possibilities: Onions. (I use a mix of green and white onions.) Mustard powder. Cayenne pepper. Oregano. Parsley. Celery.
posted by The Deej at 3:52 PM on January 3, 2010

Sorry, should've included actual recipe but I was typing on the fly while glaring into the pot. Here it is:

* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
* 1 1/2 cups chopped peeled carrots
* 3 large garlic cloves, minced
* 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 10 cups (or more) low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
* 1 cup pearl barley
* dash of tabasco
* dash of worcestershire
* 2 tbsp lemon juice
* 1 1/2cup dried green lentils
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 3:53 PM on January 3, 2010

Personally, I'd start by blending the soup with a stick blender, if you haven't already. Then I'd add a pinch of salt, unless there's a compelling health-related reason not to. If that didn't work, I'd add more strongly flavoured stock. If that didn't work, I'd add a tablespoon of curry powder (curried lentil soup equals crazy delicious!). Then, when serving, I'd add a dollop of cream/sour cream/yoghurt, as a little fat at the end really helps carry the flavour.
posted by hot soup girl at 3:53 PM on January 3, 2010

Nthing salt - try it first before adding anything else. It won't taste good without salt no matter what else you add.
posted by pitseleh at 3:54 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Add salt or sea salt, paprika to taste - and a bay leaf and continue to cook on low for a while. If you have any tomato paste, add heaping table spoon.

Maybe up the black pepper and cumin a bit.

Even a little cinnamon..
posted by marimeko at 3:54 PM on January 3, 2010

I'd try curry powder, a quarter teaspoon at a time, or maybe garam masala, same. You could also do liquid smoke, a bit of vinegar (just a splash), or my son's favorite combo: a ton of dried thyme, basil, and parsley.

Alternatively, you can add some spices and flour, then fry them into patties or pseudo falafel balls. I've had the mush thing happen with red lentils and rice, and it's not bad if there's some curry powder thrown into the mix, perhaps with a poached egg on top.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:54 PM on January 3, 2010

I'd toss some smoked ham on in there - salty and flavorful. If the butcher has some smoked ham hocks (or pork shanks if you're fancy), then you're in business.
posted by 26.2 at 3:55 PM on January 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Salt. And if it's too mushy just puree it.
posted by serazin at 3:55 PM on January 3, 2010

I'd add some tomato paste (if you've got any) and some soy sauce! Soy sauce is a little more flavor and salt, but I think tomato sauce is where it's really at.

I say this because I've got a big pot of lentil soup reheating on my stove top now that's just lentils/onion/carrots/celery/tomato paste/soy sauce/tabasco/salt/pepper and water, and it's really tasty. Celery might help next time too, but it might be too late for that now, even if you did have some around.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 3:55 PM on January 3, 2010

A fistful of cilantro and a dash of salt redeems bland food of all its sins.
posted by zoomorphic at 4:00 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Salt is definitely a good place to start.

If it needs more than that, creating a subtle sweet/tangy contrast can help carry the flavors better, esp. in a low salt/low fat dish. You could accomplish this by upping the lemon juice a bit and adding a couple tablespoons of sugar. However, I often use a few tablespoons of barbecue sauce as my secret ingredient in soups to give them a bit of complexity and add some bite to the remaining flavors. I think that might marry well with your current seasoning proffile.
posted by drlith at 4:01 PM on January 3, 2010

This is begging to become ham and bean soup.

Get a meaty ham bone and some mixed dry beans. Simmer together for an afternoon, in just enough water to cover, until the beans are done but not too soft, and the ham is falling apart, and all the salty goodness has seeped out of the bone. Maybe add some onions and carrots toward the end so that they don't disintegrate. Remove the bone and chop up the meat. To this, add an equal portion of your lentil soup. You will have a rich, flavorful soup with a thick broth and toothsome chunks.
posted by oceanmorning at 4:02 PM on January 3, 2010

Yes, salt.
posted by redfoxtail at 4:05 PM on January 3, 2010

Salt, there's no salt in that recipe. It will need much more than a pinch, but add little by little until it tastes right. You'd be surprised what a difference it makes.
posted by agent99 at 4:08 PM on January 3, 2010

Smoked bacon or ham.
posted by fire&wings at 4:09 PM on January 3, 2010

20 answers in 15 minutes and no two alike. You guys are the best. Of course, now I don't know which way to go because they all sound fantastic, but I think I'll try the tomato paste and soy sauce route on half of it and smoked ham on the other half. And salt. (I did throw some in earlier but obviously not enough).

You guys can all come over for dinner whenever you like.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 4:12 PM on January 3, 2010

Great suggestions. One more: crumble up a half a cube of bouillon and go a little easier on the salt.
posted by nosila at 4:14 PM on January 3, 2010

Oh and to everyone who said salt- I never use the low-sodium broth, and thought I'd try it to be healthier, and I don't think I realized how totally lacking in flavor it'd be. Thanks again.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 4:17 PM on January 3, 2010

Seconding cilantro and salt. Also, if you're into something spicy, add some cayenne pepper.
posted by Simon Barclay at 4:45 PM on January 3, 2010

Massel makes an excellent faux-chicken stock powder that has rescued many of my own bland failures. It's mostly salt, of course.
posted by flabdablet at 4:52 PM on January 3, 2010

Adding a blend of herbs and garlic just before you eat the soup makes it tasty. I like this one (from a lentil soup recipe)

- For the Dersa:
- A very generous bunch of cilantro chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 tsp zest of a lemon
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp good olive oil

On a chopping board, mince the garlic cloves finely. Add the chopped cilantro, lemon zest and cumin and give it another chop with your knife. Gather with your knife and chop. Gather and chop until everything looks blended. Put the mixture into a bowl and add the lemon juice and olive oil. Stir quickly.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:33 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with the salt and tomatoes. Also, the last time I made lentil soup it was really tasty with 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, a bayleaf, and 1/8 teaspoon celery seeds. This was for about 1/2 as much soup as you have.
posted by zinfandel at 5:58 PM on January 3, 2010

If for some reason you can't find any smoked ham or ham hocks, bacon will do the trick in a pinch. (It'll add salt, too!)
posted by ErikaB at 6:21 PM on January 3, 2010

Add more oil. Fat carries flavor, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil ain't much. I would add some salt, a little tomato paste and about 2 more tablespoons of oil (or some cooked bacon and the grease therefrom).
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:01 PM on January 3, 2010

I made lentil soup again today and in addition to the lentils and vegetables, I used the spices I usually use in Harira:

1 tablespoon smoked paprika*
1/2 teaspoon turmeric*
1-1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste, about 3/4 teaspoon
juice of 1/2 a lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

*or use regular (not smoked) paprika and saffron

It was quite tasty.
posted by zinfandel at 7:38 PM on January 6, 2010

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