As it's a cold, wet day up on the mountain, I thought it appropriate to tell you about my relationship with soup. I'll cut to the chase and say that it's love/hate, to say the least. Let me explain.
My mum is the best maker of soups that I know. She doesn't hold out - thick, hearty bowls that should be called stew rather than soup, with lots of meat, barley, vegetables and other goodies. She also makes the only delicious broccoli soup I've ever tasted, and her mushroom soup is one of those dishes people cook for other people and pretend it's their own recipe. What's not to like? I'll tell you. It's when you know that this is probably all you're having for the rest of the week, and as good as it is, come Friday, all you want is a sandwich.
Fast forward to my life with The Fabulous Man, and the plot thickens. Any conversation with him that involves food, soon turn to Nanny Jessie. Now, if you believe all the stories about Nanny Jessie and food, which I tend to do, you'll be overcome with the feeling of absolute futileness, as try as you might, you will never be even half as good as she allegedly was. She was Maltese (which might be the explanation) and the best cook to ever walk this earth. Or so I'm told. Reportedly, any polite decline of a fourth helping of her food would be met with "What? Don't you like it?", and her question of "Have you eaten?" was highly rhetorical, as it was always followed by "Let me make you something".
I think it was probably during my first week in Australia when I first heard about Nanny Jessie's Minestrone. The most delicious thing ever, it made you swoon and the heavens open up and the air fill with the singing of angels. Various descriptions of the sort do the rounds in the family, so I guess they can't be all exaggerating. Right, I thought, naively, we'll show them minestrone. I researched all the best sites and blogs, and came up with a recipe which I thought looked fabulous. Sunday lunch arrived, and I very nonchalantly announced that I made minestrone.
This announcement was met with a sceptical air, but I stuck to my guns, stupidly. Steaming, delicious bowls of soup with fabulous crusty sourdough was met with oooh's and aaah's, but I could tell that I was being compared. And that the comparison did not turn out in my favour. The Fabulous Man actually said (out loud!) that it wasn't quite the same as Nanny's. My lovely mother-in-law quickly added that it was delicious nevertheless, but my heart was broken anyway. Haven't made it since.
Another soup my husband likes is good old-fashioned chicken, with lots of veggies and pasta. Impossible to mess up, right? I've been making chicken soup for him on a fairly regular basis, easy as it is. One day when the discussion of what's for dinner came up, and I suggested chicken soup, I was met with the following: "I don't really like your chicken soup". Now, I'm not a negative person, but that's not what I call a compliment. He quickly suggested that it might be the stock I'm using, but my heart is still broken. Haven't made it since.
The next weapon in my arsenal: Nigel Slater. I dare anybody not to like any of this wonderful man's wonderful recipes. I tried his recipe for Tom Yum, a favourite of The Fabulous Man's. Delicious, I thought, relieved, after my first mouthful. "This is not how I remember it", from the other side of the table. Hmmm. Haven't made it since.
What makes this whole thing so much worse is that I never make a meal without him saying "This is great", or "You're a wonderful cook", or something along those lines. This is a man who's generous with his compliments, which is one of the reasons I love and adore him. That is, until I make soup.
So please excuse me for retiring from the soupmaking arena for a while, nursing my pride. The only soup I make very occasionally is this one, and a lentil and chorizo soup, when it's cold and I want something comforting but easy, like today. I think it's quite good, but I've never been wrestled to the ground and threatened to hand over the recipe, or else. Maybe one day.
2 onions, chopped
1 bunch of celery, with leaves, chopped
6 carrots, chopped
500g brown lentils (I used some lovely du Puy I had in the cupboard)
a chorizo sausage, chopped
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
50ml brown sugar
50ml red wine vinegar
Cook the onions, celery and carrots in the olive oil until soft.
Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 2 hours.
Serve with crusty bread.