Inspired by my friend George Ujvary whose love for good food is apparent in his blog The Foodologist, I now want to talk food. Soup, to be exact.
As you may or may not know, I owned a cafe for a couple of years and not only did we serve some of the best coffee going, we also had a great menu. During the colder months, all 10 of them (South of England, remember), I made soup and quickly realised I had a real passion for it.
Soup is one of those dishes that evokes memories of a cold winter’s day in front of the fire with a bowl of your mum’s finest and the world feeling right. One memory of mine is sitting with my childhood pal, Mark Costello, in his house, listening to records and being fed some great soup by his mum. Mark & I still chat about it today, even though I’m now in England and he’s in California, remembering his mum and her fantastic soup. As Mark says, his mum was old school about soup, which she was in an excellent way and for me, a prized memory. Even the sound of Two Tone music takes me right back, talking nonsense and eating soup, such is the power of the mind.
When it came to making my own for the cafe, I thought about what I would like to do, what would sell well and came up with good, honest soup that my customer base would like. Being more traditional in a typical English market town, simple flavours that were done well, better than the bought in products that other places sell, that was more like flavoured, over seasoned water.
Surely I could do better than that.
What I did was a soup of the day, making a batch or two at a time to keep the freshness and serve the day after making. I always roast the veg and usually cook the same base – onion, celery, carrots and garlic, which gives a sweet and full body to the soup. If I was in a particularly mood and it was cold outside, I went thicker with the blend, to stick to your ribs on the way down. There were many varieties, leek & potato, tomato, sweet potato, butternut squash & chill and my favourite, pea soup. No nonsense, get it in about you, hot and delicious soup.
The feedback was always good and hope I helped make a few people think about the cold winter days where soup was the hug in a mug that they needed. One such customer was Kay, who worked locally and met her aged dad once a week for lunch, always having soup together. She said to me that it they both looked forward to it each week and once when her father was too ill to make it out, she told me he was missing out. She got some as take away for him and hope he felt better after it.
After all, we all need some comfort when feeling ill, right? Millions of Jewish mums can’t be wrong.
And there is no way that I’ll ever forget Mrs Costello’s soup. I just hope that my attempt did her justice.
If you want to have a go yourself, try this below and play around with the recipe to get the consistency and flavour that you like.
Butternut Squash Soup
1 medium to large butternut squash
1 large onion
1 large carrot
1 stick of celery
2 garlic cloves
750ml boiling water
2 vegetable stock cubes (good quality)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius
Roughly chop the veg, put in a roasting tin, removing the outer skin from the butternut squash, chop into cubes and cover all veg in olive oil
Season with salt and pepper
Put in the oven for around 30 mins, until veg is soft
Once ready, remove from oven and put veg in a large pot
Boil the kettle, make the stock add to the veg.
Take a stick blender (can also be done in a food processor) and blend down to required consistency
Ready to serve!
Add some creme fraiche in design of your choice and serve with your favourite bread.
Happy eating folks and stay warm in winter, mind, body and spirit.