Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Love in a bowl

London has been covered under a record breaking blanket of snow since Monday, and for most us of that means spending time outside in the cold. After either playfully enjoying the powdery white snow in a park or slipping and sliding back from the tube station, we all return home with glowing red cheeks and numb fingers, looking for a respite from the cold. In my opinion the best possible way to warm up after a snowy day, is with a bowl of steaming, home-made soup.

When it comes to making soup, the possibilities are endless and is only limited by the boundaries of your own imagination. From thick and creamy broths to clear and rich consomm├ęs, they can serve to whet the appetite or stave off hunger, playing a vast variety of roles in kitchens and dining rooms all over the world.

My earliest memories of this versatile dish is my mother's chicken soup, made with patience and love in her pressure cooker. A glorious broth of fresh chicken portions, colourful vegetables, gleaming lentils and stock, this was always something special we shared as a family on cold and rainy days.

Coming home yesterday evening after an icy walk through the woods, I knew that there was no other option for me but to make a big pot of soup. I started running all of my favourites through my head; I could make a quick and easy, vibrantly green pea soup, or should I make my mother-in-law's amazing Borscsz, a traditional Polish beetroot soup. Maybe a classic broccoli and Stilton soup or I could always go French with a thick and beautiful onion soup. I thought that I would never be able to choose just one, when I remembered that I had been to the Farmers market on Sunday and had a basket full of glorious fresh winter vegetables.

I immediately heated the oven, chopped the carrots, sweet potatoes and parsnips and tossed them together with whole garlic gloves and knobs of butter into a roasting tray. When the veggies were tender and just starting to be slightly caramelised I added a few handfuls of fine green beans and gave them all another few minutes in the oven. After frying a finely chopped onion in some melted butter and spices, I added all of the lovely roasted vegetables, stirred them around the stock-pot for a minute or two and then added my flavourburst stock. Letting it simmer for another few minutes, I cut thick slices of granery bread and took out the tub of double cream, then quickly blended the soup to become a thick, ocre coloured bowl of love.

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