So I’m sitting here looking out of the window watching the horizontal rain batter the dog-walkers going past our house. The dogs look unhappy. The owners look unhappy. It’s been raining like this for a couple of days. Southerners would call it a gale. We just know it as winter.
For me, winter is soup time: big creamy soups not your watery consommés with the colour and consistency of dirty dishwater. You want something that’s going to fill you up and warm the cockles of your heart. Whether blended or with bits in it, a good, hearty soup, complemented with bread and butter, makes a whole meal in itself.
It makes me wonder who invented soup. I can imagine someone sitting in a cave somewhere, cooking the vegetables to have with their mammoth steaks. Did they fall asleep and let the pot boil for too long? It was quick-witted of them to mash the vegetables down and invent soup at the same time as inventing the concept of a starter.
Soups go way back in our history. There is evidence of soup bowls in China some 20,000 years ago. The origins of the word ‘soup’ are connected with an old Germanic word that means ‘bread soaked in broth’ and this nicely establishes the connection between soup and bread. It’s a perfect combination. If you don’t dunk your bread into your soup, you’re missing out on one of life’s pleasures.
Root vegetables are the kings of winter soups. I can’t get enough of parsnips, swedes, potatoes and carrots at this time of year. Maybe the emperor of them all is the celeriac (the what?). Looking like a grizzled and ill-kempt turnip, the celeriac is the Cinderella of the vegetable world. It has a distinctive taste that is beautifully complemented by apples or other sharp tastes. Pulses, too, make lovely, creamy soups. Lentils and split peas just need a little seasoning to make something incredible.
Best thing of all is that they’re so easy to make. Vegetables, stock and a little seasoning. Add meat and cream if you want to.
Next time it rains like today, I’m going to open a stall in my garage selling soup and bread to all the dog walkers. I’ll make a fortune.