Monday, 1 August 2011

Bad weather and quick food

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

It’s a tired, low Monday. The sky hovers, dirty and sulky, over the tops of the trees. I gaze dolefully at my house and think that it is time to tidy up. I have been neglecting domestic tasks. Small, alarming piles of muddle have built up in dark corners.

The sister calls. It turns out she has muddly piles too. We feel the enormous sense of relief when it turns out you are not alone.

I decide I cannot face the piles. I make soup instead. Soup makes everything better. The watercress is all finished up, so I think a bright, juicy tomato soup will do. I have no patience, so just like yesterday, I cheat.

I suddenly realise that normally when recipes talk about cheating, they mean: use things from tins and packets. I am not a tin and packet snob, although I do generally prefer fresh ingredients. My version of cheating is: no sweating of the onions. Almost all soups begin with the sweating of an onion. It is a delicate and time-consuming business. But it is the classical base; it is what brings the depth of flavour.

Sometimes, though, I think you can get away with throwing things in a pot and boiling them. (I know this makes gastronauts run screaming for the exits.) There are two secrets to this, I have found. One is: cook the thing for the shortest time possible. That way, all the fresh taste is kept. And the second is the one that will have the purists fainting away with horror: the addition of Marigold bouillon.

You may be the kind of person who always has a vat of perfect chicken stock in the fridge. You may not. If not, and you suddenly yearn for soup, do not fret: a spoon of Marigold and some water, and the thing is done. My cheating only goes so far however. I find myself unable to endorse any other stock cube, unlike that slut, Marco Pierre White, who has been pimping himself out for Knorr, because they are always too salty and greasy.


Fast as lightning tomato soup.

Take six fat tomatoes and quarter them. Peel three cloves of garlic. Put in a deep pan, over a medium heat, with a dash of olive oil. Smoosh (the technical term) them about for a couple of minutes. Then just cover with water, add a level tablespoon of Marigold, bring to the boil, and simmer for five minutes.

Put in a blender. Add another dash of extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of dried chilli if you feel like it. I use dried chilli in practically everything; it’s like an illness with me. In this soup, I also put a handful of marjoram from the garden. If you have basil, a little of that would do instead, although don’t overdo it.

Blitz until smooth. If you are feeling very poncy, you could sieve the soup. It will have a few pips in it. I do not mind this, but I know some people do.

Also, if your tomatoes are a bit anaemic, as British tomatoes so sadly often are, and you want a bit more taste and redness, throw in some of that tomato paste that you get in tubes at the last minute. It works wonders.

There are several secrets to this soup. One is: don’t use too much water. By only just covering the tomatoes, you make sure the texture is nice and smooth and thick. Two is: the final addition of the olive oil. This is not just for taste, but produces the lovely velvety texture which is so pleasing on the palate. It also means that you get a creamy soup without having to use cream. Three is: quick cooking, to keep everything colourful and flavourful.

I think that’s it. A delightful, homemade soup, so much more satisfying and comforting than anything from a shop, in under twelve minutes.

I’m still quite grumpy about the piles and the weather, but at least I got some good food inside me.

1 Aug 24


Some pictures of the garden:

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Someone was having a most excellent time with her ball:

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And the hill, which is a bit blurred today, but still hilly enough:

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  1. Oh, Marco - quite the slut and my current "object of fixation"! But not even him could talk me into using Knorr stock cubes - but I'd love him to try :-) With the cold weather we've been having I fancied a spot of proper stock making the other day; I used duck necks, a piece of beef on the bone (all meat roasted beforehand), a couple of whole onions, a few cloves of garlic, celeriac, carrots, parsley root, a spring onion, a couple of celery sticks, whole black peppers, salt and one chilli pepper and one medium tomato. Simmered for four hours - I wanted it strong but for the meat to retain some flavour. Sieved off the solids, picked meat off the bone and threw back into the soup with some fresh carrots and florets of cauliflower. Boil until soft. Parsley before serving. Delicious - I wish I could breathe this soup! Sorry for the comment hogging...

  2. Oh, my word, sabrina! Duck and beef...and vegetables I love. Yours and Tania's soups are enough to make me crank the AC down to 60-something and bang out a big pot. I'd have to do it under wraps, because I'd be locked away if it were discovered I was making soup when it's 90-something degrees (Fahrenheit) outdoors.

    Phooey on the piles to be sorted. Make and eat soup, and all is better.

  3. Oh soup is soothing both making is and eating it. And I do love a quick soup - my favourite quickie is probably spinach and pearl barley as it is fresh and needs no food processing so even quicker!

  4. Do I dare admit to using Knorr stock cubes to make my soups? Well I just did, I guess! I will have to hunt down some Marigold bouillon powder and give it a try, methinks. I inherited a lovely quick recipe for cucumber soup from my Mum - no whizzing required. Not that I am averse to a bit of whizzing at appropriate moments, of course.

    I do hope no-one reads the last sentence of your post and takes it out of context, Tania! "I’m still quite grumpy about the piles and the weather...". Haha! Someone once said "A tidy house is the sign of a wasted life." No idea who it was, but I like them!

  5. Lovely comments; thank you so much.


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