Since October last year when we set off on our bike trip, it seems like I could never get warm. Until the very end of our trip, we were always running away from cold weather. And then, when confronted with lovely warm weather, we realised: we preferred cycling in cold weather!
Also, it seems I am destined to change home locations in the middle of winter. In 2007, we left balmy Brisbane to land in icy, windy, mid-winter England. This year, we returned to a lovely wintry Brisbane (temperatures usually higher and the weather more predictably pleasant than English summers), swung down to crisp cold Tasmania (where I thought it would be fun to get an almighty cold that laid me up in bed for three days) and finally reached Melbourne, our home for the foreseeable future, in the midst of its usual (so I’m told) drizzly, grey winter.
We ate a lot of soup to keep warm. Here’s my recipe – it’s very flexible. Almost everything can be substituted with something else. The main thing you do need are potatoes (at least 1, even if you substitute other root vegetables because potatoes just make the consistency *right*), onion or garlic (or both), stock (cubes, powder, home-made – although if you make your own stock, you definitely don’t need me telling you how to make soup!) and water.
– onion, 1 diced
– garlic, at least 2 cloves smashed, unless someone is feeling poorly in which case, MORE!
– potatoes, 2 medium-sized, diced
– other root vegetables (carrots, turnips, swede, parsnips etc), roughly same amount as potatoes, diced. I tend to chop my veges different sizes depending on how long they take to cook. You want all the veg cooked nice and soft, so carrot and swede get cut small; parsnip and turnips about twice as large as carrot.
– celery if it’s hanging around, chopped roughly
– stock: I tend to use stock cubes or powder and tend to use half of what is recommended for the quantity of water that I add (about 2 teaspoons, usually, but it depends on the stock powder. I have for a long time been a fan of ‘Vegeta’, in case you’re wondering.)
– ground black pepper
– herbs, a nice handful if fresh; a tablespoon or thereabouts if dried; whatever you have on hand: parsley, oregano and thyme are all great (as is a mix of them, of course)
– water, enough to cover the veg, usually a little bit more than a litre
– handheld blender or failing that, a potato masher. I suppose you can use a normal blender, too, but, oh, the clean up involved!
1. Saute onion in a teeny amount of oil. Add some garlic, too. Garlic is always good (repeat after me …)
2. If using celery, add shortly after garlic and keep on saute-ing
3. When the onion is translucent or soft-looking, add potato.
4. Add stock cube or powder and stir into potato, onion, garlic mixture.
5. Add other vegetables and stir to coat with stock powder.
6. Add pepper and herbs now. If using fresh herbs, reserve some for adding at the end.
7. Add enough water to cover all the veg, with maybe about an extra centimetre or two. If it’s too thick later, you can always dilute with more water. I like to have a boiled kettle ready.
8. Bring the whole lot to a boil.
9. Cover with a lid, turn the heat down so that the soup bubbles nicely, but is not boiling vigorously. For me, this is about a medium heat.
10. After about 15 minutes or so, all veg should be nice and soft. If not, let it boil on.
11. Turn off the heat and let it sit for about 5 minutes to cool a little.
12. Mush with the handheld blender, adding more water if it’s too thick. You’ve had soup, right? So, you know what consistency to make it. Spoon some up and let it fall. It should slide off, not leap off. If it just coagulates on the spoon, it’s probably too thick. But hey, maybe you like your soup like that.
13. If you don’t have a handheld blender or a counter-top blender, you can mash it with a potato masher. Make sure that you cook the veg even softer – about 25 minutes. You won’t get a nice smooth consistency, but it should be fine. I’ve even made soup and mashed with a fork when I had no equipment. Dearie me.
14. Sprinkle with some fresh herbs (parsley is best here), maybe a swirl of creme fraiche or yoghurt if you’re feeling all la-dee-da about your soup and a turn of the pepper grinder.
15. Enjoy that warm goodness sliding down your throat and warming up your belly.
16. Leftovers freeze brilliantly. I don’t think I need to tell you how to freeze soup. Or do I?
Of course, we in the southern hemisphere won’t need winter warmer soups for much longer … Hurrah! Spring is coming!