Saturday, 29 October 2011

Autumn soup time!

Winter is truly on its way with the clocks going back tonight, less than two months until Christmas and the alarm clock going off in the dark. I feel so ambivalent about this time o the year.  It is such a beautiful season in England with the glorious colours of Autumn, the fun of fireworks night and snuggling up around a cosy fire with a big bowl of Autumn soup.

Autumn has arrived in our tiny back garden and him-at-home has been very busy preparing it for winter. 
Autumn in Miniature
My new favourite plant this year is the heuchera.  They come in such an amazing variety of colours from bright green through all the colours of Autumn to the deepest of deep reds.  They keep their colour all through the winter when my other favourites – hostas and ferns -have tucked themselves under the soil, to hibernate until spring comes again.  Heucheras, winter pansies and cyclamen brighten up our wintery garden and make me smile on those dull grey days.
I love my food to be as seasonal and ritually relevant as I can get it.  I hate eating salad in the winter and avoid those horrible tasteless imported strawberries when the wonderfully fragrant English ones are out of season.  I won’t eat hot cross buns on any other day but Good Friday and mince pies and mulled wine are only for Christmas.  I love looking forward to those special occasions – the first asparagus, spinach time, Apple harvest,  and pumpkin time.  Not only does it make food so much more special to eat it seasonally, it is much cheaper.  I’ve decided this blog is the perfect place to share my autumn soup recipe with you.  It can be made in vast quantities, with endless variations and each batch tastes different!  When I am stuck on an essay or fed up with reading some impenetrable paper where every second word has to one of at least 4 syllables to demonstrate the author’s impressive vocabulary, making my soup is a perfect distraction.  Nothing needs to be measured and there is no special equipment needed. We are a walk away from Lewisham Market and we just pick up vast quantities of whatever veg is going cheap.  Be warned though – don’t use green veg in it – I tried and it was awful.
Alice’s Autumn Soup – the perfect fuel for course work writing!
·         2 onions roughly chopped (wear swimming goggles if you are worried about tears!)
·         Garlic (as much as you like – I stick in 3 or 4 cloves and never have trouble with vampires!) either chopped or crushed
·         Root vegetables e.g. carrots, potatoes, pumpkin, parsnip, swede all chopped up about the size of dice.  I prefer to have more orange veg than the white veg.
·         Pepper, salt, mixed herbs.  If you want to go more exotic you can spice it up with a bit of  paprika, coriander, curry  powder – whatever takes your fancy
·         Stock – make it up with a stock cube either chicken, vegetable or beef.  You may need two if you make a huge quantity. 
·         Tinned tomatoes – one or two tins depending how much you make.
·         Oil – I always use olive because it is so good for you  - and it tastes the best!
·         ….and Alice’s secret ingredient – a teaspoon of vegemite!  But don’t worry if you haven’t got it!
·         Chop everything up but keep the onions and garlic separate.
·         In a large pan pour about a tablespoon of oil, warm it up and then add the onion.  Stay with it, stirring it gently over a low heat until it goes clear.
·         Add garlic and stir it for another couple of minutes
·         Add all the other vegetables and stir them around to coat with the oil. Turn the heat down very low, cover the pan and leave it the vegetables to ‘sweat’ for about 10  - 20minutes.  Be really careful not to have the heat too high or they will catch on the bottom of the pan and burn – that tastes disgusting! Keep checking them and stir occasionally.
·         Meanwhile mix up the stock cubes with warm water - about a pint will do for now.
·         Add the stock, tinned tomatoes and seasonings and stir around.  Add more water if you want.
·         Bring it all to the boil then turn the heat down until it is all just simmering gently.
·         Depending on the size of your batch it will take between 30-60 minutes for everything to go lovely and soft. Plenty of time to get another couple of articles read or an essay mapped out!
·         Taste it and add more seasonings if you wish.
·         Take it off the heat and when cooled slightly mash it all up with a potato masher or use a food processor if you have one.  If it is too thick add more water.
·         Serve it up just as it is or add cream, cream fraiche, parmesan cheese, croutons chopped up coriander &/or parsley, a swirl of Worcester sauce
·         This soup freezes really well but remember to just freeze the basic soup, not the serving add ons.  If you freeze it really thick it will take up less space in the freezer and thawed it can be thinned with more water.
Autumn Soup
So there you have it - my autumn soup recipe.  I always eat it in my special soup bowls I made at school in Oz .They are old and chipped but just completely perfect to wrap your  chilly hands around on a cold wintery day as you indulge!  Enjoy!

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