While the northern hemisphere is thinking of salads and strawberries, those of us who live down under are thinking of soups and stews. As we approach the shortest day, and several more weeks until I can walk to work in morning light, our minds turn to those comfort foods that also bring smiles to our faces.
There is something particularly special about a bowl of soup, the stem rising and tickling our nostrils and tempting our taste buds. Soup is also eaten with a spoon, so the ease of consuming it also adds to the simple joy it brings. The bread on the side may be crusty or soft, or perhaps there are oatcakes or crackers. It really doesn’t matter.
Soup is also something we retain in our food memories. For me, childhood is dotted with bowls of Heinz tinned tomato soup with little squares of toast that was always the first thing I managed to eat after an upset stomach or when I was sick. My husband Karl’s soup memory is pea soup on Thursdays, followed by pancakes, a real Swedish tradition. When I was a teenager, my mother used to make soup on Mondays, often using fresh chicken stock from the roast the day before. A large pot made enough for several lunches for her and my father after he retired through ill health. These soups were thick and hearty and full of barley or lentils, as well as different vegetables (carrots and cabbage often featured). I still think a soup made with a broth mix such as that shown below, is a great dish. I always have jars of red lentils, green or yellow split peas and barley to hand for whenever a bowl of soup is needed.
On Tuesday, despite it being 16C and so not exactly a freezing cold winter day, I made what could loosely be called a minestrone soup. I say loosely, as it is far from an authentic version, but one that tasted good and worked for us. For the veggies, I used courgettes, carrot, red onion (because I have to use a lot up), and a big bunch of collard greens I had picked up that morning. You will notice there is no celery, purely because I forgot to buy some. We don’t have to be purists when making soup. I also used some mild Hungarian salami for a bit of flavour and spice in the soup (I am now well away from minestrone soup…..), a tin of canellini beans, a tin of tomatoes, about 500ml of water and two good handfuls of macaroni.
The resulting soup was rich and full of flavour, and on day two for lunch, even better. I dolloped a teaspoon of sour cream onto my lunch time bowl today, which added a nice tartness. While this soup is far from being a traditional minestrone, it was a good, heartwarming dish, perfect for a midweek meal and better yet for lunch.
Footnote: other top soups in this household are lentil (my special one with mushrooms), split pea (naturally), Jerusalem artichoke and anything made with broth mix and veggies.
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