Soups, Casseroles & Broths

The French chef, Alexis Soyer, is traditionally credited with the introduction of varied soup recipes in Ireland. While professional chefs had mainly catered for the affluent in society, Soyer focused more on producing food for poorer people. He is particularly remembered in Ireland for providing free ‘famine soup’ during the mid 1800s. Soyer worked in Paris for many years, at a time when French food was being developed to a high standard. During his lifetime he became an internationally recognised chef who influenced society to such an extent that we are still enjoying the benefits to this day. In 1847, Soyer travelled to Ireland, at the request of the British Government, to help with the famine. He established soup kitchens to feed the starving Irish, saving thousands of lives - perhaps even our own ancestors.

While still in Ireland, he published Soyer’s Charitable Cookery and donated some of the proceeds to charity. Soyer’s book cost six pennies, which made it affordable to the general public. He continued to influence society, especially the lives of the poor, with the invention of Soyer’s Magic Stove; a portable stove, that was ideal for use in the cramped conditions in which many people lived at that time. In 1855, he wrote A Shilling Cookery Book for the People. This book was aimed at people who had basic kitchens and who could not afford expensive ingredients.

Nowadays, restaurants and homes boast a large repertoire of soup recipes, however one of the earliest recipes was ground oatmeal boiled in water. This soup was referred to in the 9th Century text, The Monastery of Tallaght, as a ‘brotchán’ and was used as one of the main meals for penitent monks. To some extent, this tradition of penitence remains in modern Ireland where the forty days of lent are still revered by many people as a period of fast, abstinence and prayerful reflection.