What is it about the end of the year and the start January which suggests soup? It’s not just me; my neighbour Jolita has also got the soup bug. At a guess, it goes back to childhood and Mother making meals from festive leftovers. To be fair, I don’t remember any soup, but I do remember a nut bread she made based on a recipe in a copy of Family Circle someone had passed to us. Is Family Circle still going? We weren’t a magazine taking family, though the Radio Times was taken weekly, and I was a big fan of the Dandy before I reached double figures, then it was Jackie and Fab208 as often as I could get them, with very occasional forages into Rave before I graduated to Honey. Nowadays it’s the Guardian and magazines from various organisations I belong to or charities I support. Favour, the magazine for supporters Hearing dogs of the Deaf doesn’t feature many soup recipes. But then neither did the Dandy.
That said, for me soup generally begins with what I have in the fridge rather than a recipe. And this week I had some celeriac that needed using, lots of tomatoes, and some nice white bread that was past its best. So Monday’s soup was a version of ribollita which worked surprisingly well. Motivated, I moved onto tomato soup, with a pound of tomatoes and some other veg I already had. I found a recipe which became the base for my soup, but to my surprise it didn’t include garlic. Surely some mistake? Easily rectified though, and thus emboldened I added half a tsp of ginger purée instead of the tomato purée I did not have. I love chilli, so after a slight hesitation I added a few flakes.
The result was delicious, which was fortunate as I had made enough for yesterday and today too. If Octavia is back by the weekend I’ll be suggesting it (minus the chilli which she does not like) for supper on Sunday. Today I resisted more tomatoes, but stocked up on onions and got two cauliflowers for £1, so some sort of cauliflower soup is on the cards for tomorrow. I used to do a soup/stew of root vegetables and black beans, featuring a lot of beetroot so it was a fabulous deep pink. Mother loved it. I don’t think I’ve made it since she died five and a half years ago, so it may be time for a reprise, and a nice way to remember her. I’ll keep my eyes open for the requisite swede, turnip and beetroot.
Food was always important in our house when I was growing up. We didn’t have much money, but my parents grew fruit and vegetables, had learned to waste-not-want-not as young adults in the Second World War and after, and Mother was a great cook who enjoyed reading both recipe books and books on nutrition for inspiration. She encouraged my vegetarianism, and I am sure had I moved towards veganism while still at home she would have responded with equal creativity and delicious meals. I think I was very lucky. Good meals come from the heart, and I grew up on food prepared well and with love. It left its mark. Fast food outlets have no allure for me. Microwaves are convenient, but where is the joy of preparing a meal when all you do is remove a cardboard sleeve and pierce a film with a few holes? Buying ingredients, chopping vegetables, stirring, soaking, experimenting, that’s the thing. The results may not always be quite how I have imagined, but the making has been half the enjoyment. We can all be artists in the kitchen, even though there will always be a minority who can claim to be Turners or Kahlos.