They’re not croutons they’re sippets. Olden days sippets are your winter soup’s best friend.
Winter is great soup time and, as always, I am into pea and ham soups of varying styles. The old fashioned pea and ham has been a long time family favourite; my mother made it for years and I still use her recipe with the ham hocks, sometimes ham bone or bacon bones, always onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, chicken stock, split peas and sippets. In cooking school we amake a fresh, green pea and ham stock soup with garnish of the fresh peas and tiny crispy bacon brunoise! Very stylish! BUT, I am sorry to say, without sippets.
I recently made the spit pea and ham soup for a casual dinner with my friends at On the Ridge in Kureelpa and when I passed around the sippets, none of them had ever heard of sippets! And there were a couple of Englishmen in the group too! Well that set off a discussion; one consulted the dictionary and yes – there is was…sippets.
Sippets, originating in British Victorian cuisine, are small cubes or wedges of bread fried with fresh herbs and butter, most commonly used to garnish soup.
I am not sure why, but sippets seem to have been phased out and croutons introduced; strange really, as croutons are rarely fried in butter with fresh herbs.
For my mother’s sippets, she simply cut the bread into 1 cm cubes and tossed in some bubbling butter mixed with a little olive oil; I often dry roast them in the oven, in the same way as for Melba Toast, at 120°C for 10 – 15 minutes, until crunchy.
Sippets recipe adapted from “The Soup Bible”
3 slices of day-old bread
3 tbsp of finely-chopped fresh parsley, or coriander or basil
Cut the bread into fingers about 2cm long. Melt the butter into a large frying pan. Toss in the small fingers of bread and fry slowly until golden brown.
Add the fresh herbs and stir well to combine. Cook for another minute, stirring continuously. Strew the sippets on top of the soup and serve.
Soups that work well with sippets include
• Butternut Squash Soup
• Tomato Soup
• Pumpkin Soup
• Split Pea Soup
• Potato and Leek Soup
• Minestrone Soup