Soup, Glorious Soup!
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” Edith Sitwell
Winter is here with all its doom and gloom. We have already forgotten the parties and the fun of the holidays and even if the days are getting slightly longer, it is not enough to give us that boost of energy we need.
That’s why, in the Catholic countries, Carnival was invented, I guess. But even if, as old Seneca used to say, semel in anno licet insanire (“once a year you are allowed to go mad”), you can eat fatty food and delicious sweet things, this year, Mardi Gras, (the last day of Carnival) falls on February 12. That’s long before the end of the winter. So what can we do to help us get through the rest of the season?
“Soup, glorious soup!” Don’t worry, I am not going to sing it for you. What I can do, though, is assure you that there is nothing more soothing and warming than a good bowl of soup. It is, without a doubt, the best dish for wintertime, especially right after we have been indulging so much over the holidays and then Carnival, if you happen to celebrate that too.
So now, I want you to start thinking about how to get healthy (though, what with everyone else telling you what to do after Carnival, I run the risk of boring you with this). Vegetables are a good source of vitamins and a perfect way to detox, so soup is an exceptional way to get ready for spring and then, of course, summer.
I must confess, I always like to start my dinner – whether it is for my clients or myself – with soup. It helps the digestive system, and is also a good way to get vegetable intake, especially if you don’t like to eat them. I suggest substituting a three-course meal with just a bowl of soup. Another good thing about soup is you can hide grains in it. For instance, if it is difficult to get your kids to eat any grains or some particular kind of vegetable, this is the best way to slip it into their diet without their noticing.
Evidence of the existence of soup can be found as far back as 6000 BC. Even so, boiling was not a common cookery practice at the time. That practice became more widespread with the invention of waterproof containers, probably made of clay, as archaeological artefacts lead us to believe. The etymology of the word soup comes from French soupe (meaning soup or broth). The French word is derived from the Vulgar Latin suppa (meaning bread soaked in broth).
Traditionally, soups can be made in a variety of styles: with clear broth, with ingredients liquidised to a puree, or left in big chunks. They can be vegetarian or we can have soups with meat or fish.
I like to make different versions. One of my favorites is red lentil. I like this because, although it stays liquid, it has a thickness to it so you don’t have to use a blender. Adding a little cumin adds a slight Indian flavour to it.
Here’s my recipe for Red Lentil Soup:
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 stem of finely chopped celery
1 whole carrot finally chopped
1 yellow bell pepper cut in small cubes (optional)
2 tbsp of chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of ground coriander
2 cups of red split lentils
A handful of green or brown lentils
1 vegetable stock cube (preferably non GM)
1) Heat up the oil in a tall saucepan.
2) Add all the ingredients up to the lentils (apart from the fresh coriander) and fry a little so that the spices open up the flavour of the vegetables.
3) Add the lentils and the stock cube and stir.
4) Pour cold water into the pan on high heat, then reduce the flame and let simmer. Don’t worry if you think it’s too much water. It will reduce while cooking.
5) Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle a little chopped coriander for garnish.