Monday, July 21, 2014


I have this cauldron. For 364 days of the year it lurks at the bottom of the cupboard, behind the kitchen tidy, along with the empty preserving jars, the remains of a bottle of rum I bought when my brother came, the dust-bunnies and the mouse droppings.

Once a year I shiver and look out at a grey sky and think about soup. Hot, tasty, comforting soup. The freezer needs stocking, last year’s soup has been exhausted, and the empty plastic containers have been piling up waiting to be re-filled. It’s time to make soup.

There is no recipe for this soup, which I have made for years. It is essentially vegetable soup, anything goes, it’s cheap and it’s made wholesale. I buy a selection of all the vegetables I can find in the supermarket, except (eeugh!) celery, swedes, parsnips or turnips. I chop them roughly, stalks, leaves and all, and tip the lot into the cauldron. I add a large packet of assorted pulses, some herbs and spices and a generous shake of rock salt. In goes the water, nearly to the brim.

With an occasional stir the cauldron will bubble away on a low heat for a couple of hours until everything is mushy and a sort of carroty pumpkin colour. When it’s cool enough, it gets blitzed in the blender and poured into lidded containers (old but tough yogurt containers in fact) and stacked in the freezer. There’s enough for perhaps twenty containers, the mixture is thick and, when defrosted for use, can be thinned down with milk or water, and each container would feed two people as is, and three or even four at a pinch and with additions.

The soup is tasty by itself, but it’s the possible additions that make it so useful. Noodles perhaps – they bulk it out no end. A can of sweet corn – delicious. A dash of curry powder and some red lentils – hearty.  No one need starve with home-made soup handy. Here is Lewis Carroll’s Mock Turtle, singing mournfully about it:

Beautiful soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!

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