A New Year: A New Approach

Pause for Thought

A month has passed since I last made a soup from The Soup Book but it seems like many more. Christmas and the associated festivities, preparations, socialising and recuperation have all intervened, all requiring their own investment of time and effort. The preceding months had been emotionally fraught as my family dealt with a serious health issue. Other events of significance included the younger offspring's initiation into the business of secondary school, a family wedding and adapting to the demands of a new role at work. And all the while I was trying to keep up with my self-imposed soup-making schedule. So this year calls for a new approach: less frequent soup-making and more experimentation with other recipe books.

The spouse and I have a lot of cookery books, a few of which were my parents' and date from the 1970s. I flicked through one of these yesterday: Alison Burt's The Gourmet's Guide to French Cooking, first published in 1973. Its retail price was £1.75 but I noticed that it was marked down to 60p! I don't remember seeing anyone using this book at home and on looking through the recipes I'm not surprised. They're quite elaborate and don't match the style of food I grew up on: Anglo-Indian food and traditional Irish and British plain cooking. In the later 1970s, after my family had moved to Dublin, my parents befriended a French family. The wife was an excellent cook and introduced us to the style and luxury of French cooking. I spent a few weeks in Normandy, where my enjoyment of rich food was consolidated.

Back to Burt. Her book contains a section on soups which includes stocks, court bouillon and consommes. Her recipe for garbure is substantially different to Marie-Pierre Moine's. Burt subtitles garbure a "classic peasant vegetable soup" whereas Moine's recipe includes confit duck and pancetta. Is this how I should proceed with soup-making this year: pick similar soups from different books and compare the results? Let's see.

Zuppa di Verdure

My first soup of 2013 and the one hundred and fifty-second from The Soup Book was zuppa di verdure  (Sophie Grigson's recipe). In previous blogs I have slavishly listed the ingredients and described the preparation and cooking activities in such a way that I can avoid claims of breach of copyright. I'm trying to work out a new approach to this, partly because I am bored with listing and partly because I have been very impressed by the way the spouse's blog (also to do with food) has developed. For now, however, I'll stick to the formula. Ingredients: dried or canned cannellini or haricot beans, bouquet garni consisting of rosemary, thyme and bay leaves, onion, carrots, celery, leeks, garlic, dried red chilli, tomatoes, tomato puree, and cavolo nero/curly kale/Savoy cabbage. Preparation: cook dried beans with bouquet garni or rinse canned beans; chop, dice or slice the vegetables as appropriate. Cooking: sweat; cook; boil; simmer; blend; simmer again. Serve. Because I used canned beans, I wondered how I would the flavour of the bouquet garni into the soup. My solution was to put the bouquet in with the vegetables.

When it was ready, I dished up and we tucked in. "A mighty soup!" declared the spouse. The younger offspring enjoyed it but tempered it with a spoonful of yoghurt as a finely chopped fresh chilli had given the soup a really fiery kick. I liked the texture which was achieved by liquidising half of the vegetable mix and pouring it back into the mixture. So, that's it.

Bee is for Books

Last week I started reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, lent to me by a friend who enthused about it. I'm now eight chapters in and beginning to enjoy this story of Ernest Hemingway's first wife. The bees come into it when Hadley Richardson is met at Union Station, Chicago, by Hemingway: "...and then my mouth was dry as cotton, my stomach full of bees."

Now I have to be a busy bee and get on with some housework.

Until next time,



  1. Your soup this week sounds lovely - a great mix of ingredients which seem perfect together - definitely one I will try! I was also interested in your reference to French cooking, and in particularly your mention of Normandy. I adore Norman cooking - although I associate in mainly with hearty country cooking rather than sophisticated fare, often accompanied by excellent cider. The food is certainly rich, with cream added to almost everything ...as as for the cheese - difficult to to know where to start! I am glad you are continuing your blog in 2013 :)


Post a Comment

Popular Posts