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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Warming Food

I am afraid that winter has come early to the southern hemisphere. As I sit here, I am dressed in a spencer, a lamb’s wool jersey and a tracksuit top plus pantyhose, denims and slippers. And I am cold.
There is nothing like being cold to increase the appetite – especially for starchy foods: mountains of creamy mashed potato and thick slices of hot toast dripping butter! There’s nothing the matter with either potatoes or toast, it’s just what you eat with them (and the amount you eat) that can be a problem.

My favourite food solution to the winter chills is soup, it’s warming and satisfying and oh, so easy to make. I operate on the ‘rusty nail’ principle (remember the children’s story?) Here’s how I go about it.

I pour at least 1 ½ liters of water into a large saucepan and put it on the stove to heat.
Then I toss in 150gms of mixed dried peas, lentils and barley.
And 1 Tblsp of stock powder.

Next comes the ‘what’s in the fridge’ part.
Could be I have:
2 large carrots – scrubbed, topped and tailed, chopped
Celery – 2 stalks, scrubbed and sliced, leaves and all
Turnip – 1 or 2, scrubbed, topped and tailed, chopped
Leeks – 2 - well washed and sliced
Butternut – about ½ peeled and chopped
Green beans – end of the packet, looking a bit sad, topped and tailed and chopped
Courgettes – 3 – 4 topped and tailed and chopped
Aubergine – 1 peeled and chopped
I add these to my simmering pot as I prepare them.

Now, what’s in the store cupboard?
A can of chopped tomatoes with onion
A can of chick peas, cannellini, kidney- or butter beans, mixed beans (1 can, contents rinsed and drained)
Pasta? 1 cup of pasta – shells, alphabet shapes, broken spaghetti – sometimes I use rice.
These are unceremoniously added to the pot.

I check to see if I have enough water in there (add more if necessary), then I cover the pan and while it simmers away for 25 minutes or so, I dig a loaf of crusty bread out of the freezer and put it in the oven to thaw and re-crisp (about 20 mins at 180ºc). And I’ll maybe take the cheese out of the fridge – you get a better flavour when it is not so cold.

Once I’m ready to serve I blitz the soup with my hand blender – just 3 or four times, I’m not trying to puree it, only thicken the stock. Voila - wonderfully tasty, warming, filling, healthy soup.

Do you have a ‘rusty nail’ soup recipe? You can use any or all of the ingredients I’ve listed, and plenty of others. What are your essential soup ingredients?

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