Lately I have been thinking about soup. Incessantly.
Due to an inability to digest onion and a few other frequent additions to soups I’m only able to eat my own homemade soup, or, oddly, a few flavours of tinned soups that are made with no onion. A few years ago, when I must have been short of time or energy, and thinking back fondly on childhood memories, I succumbed to the ease of opening a tin of soup. It was so heavily salted and sweetened I could hardly believe it. Next time I am short of time or energy I will stir a spoonful of Miso paste into a cup of hot water and float a few pieces of ginger in it for a more healthful repast.
On our recent travels, the weather was quite cool, icy and nearly snowing one morning, and every temperature and season between, over the four weeks. After a long, hot summer here in Alice, I had been yearning for soup weather again. Now that I had it, I couldn’t take advantage of it.
Mom talked about soup nearly every day we saw her, that being a staple part of supper provided where she lives. My desire grew, but not for the institutional variety which she ate.
A couple of weeks ago we arrived home from our international travels on Tuesday and the next day we flew to Adelaide so my husband could attend a conference and I could visit with our daughter. Completely uninvited, a nasty upper respiratory virus found me and stowed away in my bag!
My kingdom for a bowl of comforting, phlegm destroying Jewish penicillin—chicken soup!
Three days after arriving back from Adelaide my husband was off to Melbourne. (I know, he doesn’t understand about this retirement concept!) I camped on the sofa with tissues, paracetamol and vegetable soup I had made from stock, frozen a couple of months before. In a viral haze that was nearly delirium, my mind drifted to the recent weeks’ events, trying to process it all and make sense of it.
Perhaps there is no sense to it. Except soup.
The fluid situations in which we found ourselves varied widely from something reminding me of the watery substance consumed in death camps in Nazi Germany to that comforting, warm and life-affirming variety made by my grandmother. She used to send someone to The Handy Store for 10 cents worth of beef shin bone, and we knew soup, studded with ceci and garden vegetables was not far off!
You can tell any soup that is made with love.
There is the bright, nourishing one brimming with friendship, seasoned with affection and support. There is the wholesome, mellow version, redolent of warmth and love, steeped from lifelong relationships.
And, there are the other soups.
Some are nearly toxic. Some are weak and unsatisfying, or reheated from a tin, containing ingredients that look like they could support life, but have little capacity for sustenance, in actual fact. We would do well to avoid them when we can. But sometimes we can’t. Why do those awful recipes get handed down in families, along with the delicious ones?
It is grim to see a situation for what it truly is sometimes. Once seen, a body needs to rid itself of toxic energies and heal. We are nearly there again, back to the good soup; the one that comes from the sun on the hills and simmers quietly in the cool autumn air, consumed amongst the tinkle of laughter and satisfaction of a life well lived.
Here is my favourite all-season soup recipe in its original form below, with my alterations in brackets. Most of the time I make my own version of this, always with no onion or garlic but varying spices, herbs or vegetables for flavour or with whatever I have on hand.
Prep: 20mins Cooking: ~45mins
1 T extra virgin olive oil
4 C water, Vegetable stock OR my preference [2 C chicken stock with 2 C water for a very light soup, or pure chicken stock for a heartier version]
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
[instead of above onion and garlic, I use 1/2tsp chilli flakes and 1tsp fennel seed]
1 x 400g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
250g waxy potatoes, cut into small 1cm (1/2inch) cubes
2 small carrots, cut into 1cm pieces
[I often add a fennel bulb that has been cut into 1cm (1/2inch) dice and/or celery for extra flavour]
3 large Roma tomatoes, cut into 1cm pieces (the original recipe says to peel and seed them, but I cannot be bothered)
[in winter I use good quality organic tinned tomatoes with juice instead of the tasteless winter tomatoes, this makes a heartier soup for colder weather]
1/2C fresh corn kernels
1 shelled or frozen peas
250g stringless green beans, topped and cut into 3cm pieces
2 heaped T shredded basil
Crusty bread to serve
1. Combine oil and onion in a large pan and cook over moderate heat until soft, for about 5mins, stirring frequently. Stir in garlic and cook for a further 1min.
2. Add potatoes, carrots and fennel, if using, also salt and chilli flakes and fennel seed and cook covered for about 20-30 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.
3. Add tomatoes, cannellini beans, corn, peas and green beans and cook a further 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Immediately before serving scatter with basil and drizzle with olive oil.