Feeling soupy

Sometimes if it’s warmish, i don’t feel much like eating lunch, but think I should otherwise I’ll be hungry before the next meal and be tempted to snack on something naughty… which is why soup is good – except of course if the weather really is lovely and hot, in which case maybe not soup!

Here are some soups I have made in the past which have been successful:

  • Root soup – The colour was sensational, the recipe easy, one small to medium beetroot, two parsnips, one medium to large carrot, one medium onion, stock… cook, blend, season, serve, enjoy!
  • Nettle soup – Nettle soup is the easiest thing to make – fry a few onions in butter, wilt down the nettles leaves which have been very, very thoroughly washed and pulled from the fibrous stems, add some stock (and  cooked potatoes if you want a thicker soup) heat through, don’t let the nettles lose their lovely colour, whiz in a blender and rub through a sieve, serve with a swirl of cream and some freshly grated nutmeg!
  • Smiley soup – Parsnip and leek soup, with cumin, coriander, dill, anis seeds, fennel, coconut and cheesy toast fingers!
  • Sunny soup – Miserable weather needs sunny soup, red, yellow and green peppers, tinned tomatoes, onions and garlic, roasted or  fried, blended, with a light stock, pour into bowls with chickpeas, finely sliced, blanched runner beans and orzo pasta, a tiny splash of chilli sauce, dabs of crème fraiche, some roasted baby tomatoes… sunny soup!
  • Strange-looking soup – Onion and dill soup with cumin, – gently fry loads of onions and a little garlic in a mixture of oil and butter; when really soft, blend and extra vegetable stock. Garnish with fried onions and pine nuts… it looks a strange colour but is really tasty
  • Lentil soup – While the lentils were cooking I fried a very small amount of chopped up smoked bacon and about an inch of finely sliced leek in some olive oil. When the pulses were soft, I blended them and the onion then poured them onto the bacon and leek. I added salt, a splash of sweet chilli and garlic sauce, and sprinkled some dill seeds… and there was soup!
  • Beetroot soup – I peeled my raw beetroot –  it looked as if murder had been committed, red everywhere, but I prefer the flavour of the roots boiled without their skins. I used the red cooking  liquor for the soup which I made in the ordinary way, with gently fried onions, herbs, spices and seasoning. I rubbed it through a sieve, added a little extra vegetable stock thickened with cornflour, and garnished with coriander
  • Cauliflower soup – I sliced some onion and fried it with quite a lot of butter and olive oil and also some grated root ginger; I added freshly ground nutmeg and black pepper, a couple of allspice berries and a couple of hot chillies. I added some finely sliced cauliflower leaves and stalk and cooked for a few minutes until they were soft. I added about a third of the cauliflower head chopped up, sweated it a little then poured in about a pint of vegetable stock. When it was just cooked I blended it, and rubbed it through a sieve, added some cream blended with cornflour, and reheated it and voilá!

It’s still spring

Even though it is beginning to feel like summer, the windows are open late into the evening, it is still spring. The little 1936 publication, The National mark Calendar of Cooking offers us Spring Soup. The little cookery book was issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and published to try and promote good produce from local and regional farmers, to improve standards and improve the nation’s health.

So here is the spring soup:

Spring Soup

  • 1 lettuce
  • 1 turnip
  • 1 carrot
  • a few spring onions
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1½ pints of stock or milk and water
  • 1 tbsp cream or evaporated milk
  • parsley
  • pepper and salt
  1. shred the vegetables as finely as possible and set aside half the lettuce for garnish
  2. bring the stock or milk and water to the boil and add all the vegetables and the parsley and seasoning
  3. blend the egg yolk with the cream or evaporated milk, bring the soup to a gentle simmer and stir in the egg and cream
  4. put the set aside lettuce in the bottom of the tureen and pour in the soup

I’m not sure about the turnip… turnip doesn’t seem very spring like to me, and it does have a very dominating flavour – maybe a potato? Or for a borscht like soup, how about a beetroot!

Freezer soup

Being keen never to waste any food as far as is possible, all sorts of odds and ends of leftovers end up in the freezer. I’m really meticulous about writing labels and sticking them on the boxes and bags and whatever containers I’ve found to put the oddments in – well, I’m usually really meticulous but I admit that sometimes I forget… or the item is put away before its label is attached, or someone else puts it away, or the label comes off in the freezer – and sometimes attaches itself to something completely different, or if I’ve written straight onto the bag/box/container in permanent ink, sometimes the ink isn’t permanent…

The upshot of all this is that sometimes, well often if I’m truthful, things emerge from the freezer and I actually have no idea what they are. In our efforts to be economical and to get rid of unwanted things, and not to give in to so-called ‘bargains‘ or ‘2 for the price of 1′ etc, when we needed a new freezer, we bought a small one. For the most part there are only the two of us at home, so we don’t need great stocks of stuff…

Anyway, today from our small freezer, I took out a small box which said clearly ‘fennel soup’… when did I ever have fennel that I made into soup? I have no idea. I also took out another small box which said ‘veg soup’. The fennel soup, was indeed that, but such a small portion it wasn’t enough for both of us, and the so-called veg soup was actually frozen roasted vegetables – perfect, the two things could go together to make enough soup for us! Except it wasn’t enough. I returned to the freezer and found an unlabelled box with beige soupy looking stuff… in with the fennel and roast vegetables… delicious! The beige stuff was chicken soup, so the three things were perfect!

This afternoon I returned to the small freezer, and took out three more containers, none with labels… two might possibly be shepherd’s pie, one is definitely chocolate cake… when did I ever make a chocolate cake and put it in the freezer? Maybe it is not my lack of labels – maybe someone else is sneaking into our house secretly and putting unmarked things in the freezer… it’s the only explanation!


Not sure I quite fancy this!

The National Mark Calendar of Cooking was written in the early 1930’s and the edition I have is from 1936. As you might imagine it is a season recipe book, following the months and the fresh produce available. I have tried many of the recipes and enjoyed nearly all of them. However… there are a few which just sound too unusual and not to modern tastes…

For example, I love Brussels sprouts, and all the new and different recipes I have tried for them, from salads to stir fries I have enjoyed. The National Mark cookery book has Brussels sprouts au gratin, yes, very nice, Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, yes especially nice at Christmas time, and Brussels sprouts purée in the March list of recipes which actually seems to be Brussels sprouts soup… I’m not too sure…

Here it is:

Brussels sprouts purée

  • sprouts
  • 1 oz flour
  • 1 oz butter
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 1¼ pints of milk and water
  • pepper and salt
  • fried bread or toast diced
  1. fry the onion in the butter but do not let it brown
  2. add the flour, cook for a few minutes then add the milk and water and simmer for 5 minutes
  3. prepare and sieve the sprouts (I guess that means cook and sieve them,  or use left over already cooked sprouts)
  4. add to the soup and season
  5. serve very hot with the toast or fried bread
  6. spinach soup can be made in exactly the same way

There is rather a nice little note ‘with the aid of National Mark canned vegetables, a variety of soups can be prepared all the year round in little more than ten minutes should an emergency arise.’

My featured image is of delicious Brussels sprouts with chorizo and black pudding! … and here is the recipe:



Kangaroo soup

We were passing a butcher’s which sells unusual meats and we went in to see if they had any wallaby. Yes, I know they are cute etc, but so are lambs, anyway… while we were away I had wallaby several times and it was absolutely delicious. The butcher had none, but he did have kangaroo, so we bought a couple of streaks.

I cooked them very simply, on a griddle with butter and olive oil, I didn’t marinade them or treat them with anything, I just fried them. While they were resting and the vegetables were finishing cooking (roast potatoes, carrots, peas, cauliflower, sprouts) I made a sort of sauce/gravy with the juices plus port and cherry jam and a little chicken stock… and it was mighty fine, I can tell you!

Today for lunch I made some soup with the remaining sauce/gravy; it seemed a little sweet now it was on its own, so I added some more stock, a little horseradish, a little Worcestershire sauce and the tiniest splash of nam pla (fish sauce) I also added some tiny shell pasta and chopped up a couple of the left over roast potatoes. My husband had the carrots and peas in his bowl, I had the sprouts and cauliflower… and we decided it was a very good soup!

I guess a lot of people might have thrown those oddments away, but we had a lovely lunch – and it felt as if it was free because it was leftovers!

The Emulsifying Machine

I was very fortunate to be given a wonderful old book, The Constance Spry Cookery Book for my birthday present. it was first published in 1956 by which time she was seventy years old; she died just four years later. I’m sure this edition of her recipes included many which she had written before, but is described as “one of the best known cookery books of all time. It is one of the kitchen bibles, worshipped by millions”. It was co-written by Rosemary Hume, and it is still published and on the shelves today… however my birthday gift is sixty-one years old! (Rosemary Hume was twenty years younger than Constance, born in 1907 and dying in 1984)

The emulsifying machine is a blender – one of the stand-bys of kitchen equipment now, but obviously quite a new thing in the 1950’s. It is described as ‘a small but not inexpensive piece of electrical equipment… this invaluable appliance.’ It is recommended that the accompanying instruction booklet should be consulted and read with care… I’m afraid I sometimes neglect to do this with something new, I should take Constance’s advice, it’s much easier in the long run! The only slight thing I would say in my defence, often these days the instructions are minimal, sometimes pictorial, sometimes not there at all as the designer thinks its use should be intuitive!

There are some good suggestions, from Constance, soups and sauces, cocktails and sorbets and this suggestion for newly wed wives: “I think it should come early on the list of wedding presents even for the bride who hopes and believes she will find a good cook...” I can’t imagine that was the case for many post war households, to have a cook!

Here is a rather strange recipe…

Cold tomato and pineapple soup

  • ½lb chopped peeled tomatoes
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • small cup of tinned tomatoes
  • coconut water, or 1 cup of coconut milk
  • small cup of water
  • seasoning
  1. half fill the emulsifying machine goblet with the ingredients
  2. switch to half and run for two minutes
  3. repeat with the rest of the ingredients
  4. adjust the seasoning and serve chilled

It might taste all right on a hot day, but I am not totally convinced, and less convinced by the recipe for Potage Bruxelles – Brussels sprout soup… I think I’ll give that a miss…



Leek and potato soup with vegetables


This is so warming for a cold and miserable day… I actually made it from leftover vegetables, but the basis was leeks and potatoes.

This is my recipe:

  • butter
  • 3 leeks, sliced thinly
  • 1 yellow pepper, cut into small pieces
  • 2 small onions,  sliced thinly
  • two sticks of celery,  cut into small pieces
  • 6 small-medium potatoes,  cut into small pieces
  • stock (I used chicken) – about 1½ pints but adjust for your preferred thickness
  • a couple of ounces of Polish chopped pork
  • cream, chilli sauce and celery leaves to garnish
  1. melt the butter (I used about 2 ounces but use more or less or use oil of choice)
  2. add all the vegetables except the potatoes, stir well to cover in butter/oil, put the lid on and leave to cook gently until soft and tender
  3. add the potatoes, stir well, and add stock
  4. leave to cook until the spuds are done (about 25 minutes for my potatoes)
  5. blend or rub through a sieve or both
  6. add teh chopped pork pulled into small pieces (miss it out or  add cooked bacon/chorizo pieces, lardons, anythig you fancy)
  7. add more liquid if necessary, stock/water/milk
  8. serve with cream and chilli sauce twizzled on top and chopped celery leaves