Category Archives: Soups

What to doooo

The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.
~ Calvin Trillin

Sleepless sleep. Ever have that? When you sleep, and wake up feeling like you never slept. Or haven’t slept for about a week straight. Head still full of unresolved dreams and other matters of little connection to happiness. It’s painful, in what I imagine to be an old arthritic way.

I traipse then, into the kitchen, to spot: egg whites in a bowl. OK. The wheels in my brain start spinning, ever so slowly, until I hear: omelette, light and fluffy, relax, go slow.

What I do to the 2 egg whites, then: I add 1 whole egg, whisk it all with salt and pepper, and turn the resulting mixture into an omelette. (My experience of this is a good light omelette – kind of like it!)

The morning goes by, and I am still at home. Feels strange to spend Saturday morning at home. Feels strange not to be hanging out with someone, or on a bus, or walking to a meeting, or – you know – doing something more significant than just… nothing. I take out my papers, thinking I will do some work. I put them all away again without reading a single sentence. Forget work.

When afternoon finds me tired out from dancing to ridiculous music and vacuuming the house with Shake & Vac, I find a saucepan, I take out my chopping board. Fry garlic. Add leek rings, dried marjoram, fresh rosemary, saute it all. Add cubes of monkfish fillet, mind dwelling on how soft it feels to touch. Add water, milk, salt, egg, mustard, pepper, dribble of cream – letting nothing but my senses guide me. I eat soup standing in the kitchen, without bread, without music. A few minutes later, Paul rings and thus begins a good afternoon catching up on the phone.

What to do on an imsomniac night: trying to figure that out now. Not reaching conclusions. What do you do after you’ve tried counting sheep, marshmallows, lions and ballerinas – and still can’t sleep?

[edit] I decided to make my first ever batch of scones, after all. It worked out perfectly as I had the required half a cup of cream, 2 lemons and rosemary sprigs handy! I referred to this recipe, and tweaked it a little.

It is now 12.38am. I think I should try sleeping again. Goodnight.

[/edit]

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Berry nice indeed

To invite someone is to take charge of his happiness during the time he spends under your roof.
~ Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Lizzie arrived yesterday afternoon to visit! She is golden-haired with twinkling eyes and a pure heart to rival Snow White’s. She has a wonderful way of drawing you out of your shell into who you are, and talking to her reminds me of what it feels like to bask in sunshine. She also makes me laugh – alot! – (in a good way, Lizzie, if you are reading this!)

We took a trip to Moore Wilsons in the rain to look at what to buy for dinner. As we studied baby beetroots, lemon verbena, the many types of olives, huge moon-sized (seemingly) blocks of cheese – I was drawn into a world just beneath the world we live in. A delicious world of memories, recipes, family habits/traditions, allergies (yes really!), etc… all this came forth as we conversed, remembered, thought about what would go well with what.

Groceries duly purchased, we shared an umbrella in the now pouring rain, and made a beeline for gelato. The best thing you can have when it’s raining.

Along the way, skipping over puddles and sitting aboard a cramped busy bus, we caught up on our lives.

I had prepared the cheesecake earlier in the morning, from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#53 Berry Cheesecake – Page 272

(I LOVE peeking into the oven in the final minutes of baking… it is like opening presents on Christmas morning!)

Sunny came over in the evening to join us in dinner preparations. On the menu:

Gingered Carrot Soup with Avocado – recipe from Orangette (a fresh cold soup with a nice touch of creamy avocado, slips down your throat like a dream)

Salad with pan-fried basil chicken, nashi pears, feta, mixed greens topped with lemon and a warm dressing of olive oil, olives, capers, sundried tomatoes, garlic (simple, elegant and tasty)

Grilled bread

We bustled around whilst John and Matt sat on the couch, trying to watch TV amidst the growing noise and slightly delayed arrival of dinner – poor boys! (Of note were Sunny’s patience with our temperamental blender and Lizzie’s super plating skills!)

Flambéd cheese + pork parcel + pepper soup

Many’s the long night I’ve dreamed of cheese.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

I didn’t have time or clean fingers to take many photos whilst cooking tonight! Busy busy busy I was, time went whizzing by. On the menu from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries” were:
#39 Fried Haloumi Cheese – Page 151
#40 Pork Fillet in Pastry with Wild Mushrooms & Cream Sauce – Page 45
#41 Red Pepper Soup with Olives, Lemon Rind & Yoghurt – Page 343

Cheese: I engaged the help of Matt to set it alight, standing poised with my camera ready to take a picture. He slowly added a few drops of deep blue sambuca (used because we did not have ouzo)… and, oh, wow. No matches were needed. A bright orange wave of fire burst forth like a genie who’d been stuck in his lamp for too long. It was amazing watching the flames lick hungrily at the haloumi for a few bright seconds before gently subsiding.

Brilliant.

Modifications: I doubled the recipe and used sambuca instead of ouzo. Verdict: nice, but too rich in my opinion as an appetizer! I only managed 1/3 of my chunk.

Pork fillet in pastry with wild mushrooms & cream sauce: Made the pastry this morning, much to my relief afterall – or we’d have had to dine way after 7.45pm! The pork fillet drank in the brandy nicely, the pastry covering was light and buttery without being too rich, and the sauce was… mmm.

Modifications: I wasn’t sure what qualifies as ‘wild mushrooms’ (no such labels in sight at the supermarket), so I used normal flat mushrooms. I also halved this recipe as two of my other flatmates weren’t home to help eat. The pastry needed a little more water than the recipe suggested.

Red pepper soup with olives, lemon rind & yoghurt: I was surprised by how strongly the taste of tomatoes came through in this (mental note to add less next time)! The olives, lemon rind, rosemary & yoghurt in the soup sit so well with my tastebuds though. It’s like eating a Vivaldi concert, if such a thing is possible!

Modifications: Halved this recipe. Didn’t grill peppers. Didn’t peel peppers and tomatoes. I know, terrible.

‘Death medicine’ (or green soup)

I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.
~ George Bush, U.S. President (1990)

What you see here, my dears, is version #16 (or so) of a concoction with humble, accidental (?) beginnings.

One memorable day last year, I found to my horror that my flatmate Matt had made us green soup for dinner. GREEN SOUP. I’ve had tasty colourful soups (like a blood-red champagne & watermelon soup in a vineyard once) before, but the sight of this gloopy, mossy, duck-poo coloured green gloop did not appeal to me at all… at first, anyway…

I remained doubtful even though Matt attributed this magic potion in part to a marvellous cauliflower amuse bouche we once had in a restaurant (flavourful and poignant, a bouquet of garlic and wonder which truly paved the way to an enjoyable dinner).

When I finally closed my eyes and lifted the glass to my lips… I found myself surprised to the point of glee… which just goes to show you should NEVER, EVER judge a book by its cover. Or a soup by its look. Whatever.

“Try everything at least once”, my mom always encouraged, and except for the odd occasion (eg. turtle soup, sea urchin and ostrich eggs), I have mostly emerged the better for it. Sometimes, especially when you least expect it, food can reach past your senses and surprise you with something akin to a happy dream.

Anyway, I had 2 little shot-glasses of it tonight when Matt made this particular version of what he has named ‘death medicine’… and I include the recipe below with his permission. He did not measure these exactly, but they should be pretty accurate.

    Ingredients:
    1/2 broccoli
    1 courgette
    1/2 cup sango sprouts (I hate this in salads but it is not bad in soup)
    1/3 cup unsweetened yoghurt
    1 tbsp cream cheese
    tuscan seasoning
    cajun spice
    black pepper
    truffle oil
    dill
    Method to Matt’s madness:
    Steam broccoli and courgette.
    When they are soft, pulse and blend them with any excess water (approximately 1/3 cup), sprouts, yoghurt, cream cheese, seasoning and spice until it becomes a nice creamy soup. Adjust ingredient quantities till you reach desired taste and consistency.
    Pour it into a glass and pour a tiny bit of truffle oil on the top before adding a small sprinkle of dill.
    Yields 2 servings.

Simple

In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It has not happened before. I have not heard my heart speaking to me about what to eat before! But I am pretty sure that is what happened tonight. A most absurd, insistent, calm, compelling voice which I did not dare disobey: “Prawn and celery soup”.

Weird… I know…

So I picked up a few gifts of Turkish Delight & hot chocolate, some Vaseline for my mosquito-bite-infested face (yes, it’s as bad as it sounds), the ingredients for my supposed soup which I hadn’t made before, and on a whim, a tub of woodsmoked mussels.

It was a good 40 minute walk home from the sups, and I listened to Yanni and Phantom of the Opera and songs from the Nutcracker Suite on the way home. (If music be the food of love, play on indeed!) The houses and trees and streets looked so beautiful in the paling sunlight.

I was so glad for the mussels, as I was pretty hungry by the time I got home! I squeezed some lemon on them, added a little parsley – they were delicious as hell. I ate them while I smashed the lemongrass stalk, chopped half a shallot and 2 cloves of garlic, ginger.

    Recipe for my impromptu soup (a hearty dinner, plus leftovers)
    Ingredients:
    1 lemongrass stalk, smashed (to release flavour)
    small knob of ginger
    1/2 lime
    1/4 celery, sliced
    7 brown button mushrooms, sliced
    150g prawns
    2 cloves garlic (lightly smashed)
    1/2 shallot (chopped)
    1/2 medium saucepan-ful of water
    approximately 2 tbsp soy sauce
    dribble of sesame oil
    dribble of mirin
    Method to my madness:
    Bring water to boil. Add ginger and smashed lemongrass stalk, and leave to continue boiling for a few minutes.
    Meanwhile, briefly fry, in another pan, shallot and garlic in a bit of oil – I used olive oil.
    Add fried shallot + garlic, celery and mushrooms to the saucepan. Also add in soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil – to your taste. Cover and let boil for more minutes.
    Lastly, add the prawns in. When they are cooked (it doesn’t take long), the soup is ready.

It’s not as flavourful as the soups you cook for hours (my Grandma is very skilled in the art of these soups) – but it really is deeply satisfying.

Time to get on with the rest of my night… ciao-ciao.