Bottom of the Fridge Soup Part 297…

I’ve just broken my own rules, and eaten a bowl of freshly-made soup. It was amazingly good – this is the (vegetarian), recipe.

When I was hauled off to hospital last week, I’d just filled the fridge with fresh veg. Given that my shortest stay last year was10 days, I had visions of coming home to a fridge full of brown mush.

Actually, these giant “American” fridges keep veg in remarkably good condition though, flying in the face of received wisdom, the veg does have to be over-bagged and tightly sealed or the circulating frigid air has a desiccating effect on it, and I hadn’t done it.

Anyway, I was in for only a week and the veg was fine (I suspect that I’d have been in longer if not for the impending bank holiday – based on how I feel, I should have been, but the place is an ill-ventilated hell-hole and I wanted out ASAP.

I’d have liked to have made another batch of roasted vegetable soup, but I’m just too weak right now, so I opted for root veg and cauliflower, perked up with lemon zest and just a hint of Aleppo chilli.

I have, I’ve been sternly told, to cut down on salt. Salt-free was suggested, and promptly rubbished. There are very few things left in my life, from the time when I was fit, that still give me pleasure (and that I can still do), and cooking and eating are two of those. The former is spasmodic, and when I’m able to cook a lot of it winds up in the freezer for the times when I can’t. Eating I can always do!

Anyway, If I want to extend my dismal life, I have to cut down on salt, so I’ll be looking at other seasoning components in future recipes. There will still be salt, just not as much – never lose sight of the fact that salt is essential to life, a totally salt-free diet is a fatal diet.

If, like me, you like lemon, but find the juice far too dominant and acidic, try the zest, it gives you the flavour hit without a hint of acidity, nor does it wipe out other flavours. I use a Rex peeler to remove the zest from lemons in strips about 1cm wide. The length depends on the size of the lemon. The zest freezes well, as do the now zestless lemons until such time as you have a use for them. In this recipe I used the entire zest from a lemon about the size of a very large egg. Finely chopped it yielded a good tablespoon

Dried basil goes well with lemon, and Aleppo chilli adds a smidgen of heat. Treat it with caution, though – it’s hotter than advertised and goes on getting hotter still.

Ingredients, makes 4 litres (all from Sainsbury’s):-

1 small cauliflower broken up into small florets and any useable stalk finely chopped (it’s all flavour)

500g parsnips, trimmed, peeled, quartered lengthways and sliced

3 fat carrots, ditto

6 or 8 cooking onions, depending on size (they seem to be mostly golf-ball sized right now), halved and finely sliced

Lemon zest as above

½ teaspoon Aleppo chilli

2 good teaspoons dried basil (don’t use fresh, the flavours are very different)

1 teaspoon Schwartz Garlic Granules

2 Kallo Organic veg stock cubes (if you’re not a veggie, this is very good with chicken stock)

2 good teaspoons Marigold Bouillon Powder (or more to taste)

¼ teaspoon Schwartz fine black pepper

1 rounded teaspoon Malden Sea Salt flakes (or to taste assuming you, too, don’t have to cut back!)

3 cans Napolina butter beans, drained and rinsed

30g clarified butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

A good tablespoon Schwartz Flat Leaf Parsley to finish

Method:-

As the cauliflower cooks quickly, hold it back and cook the root veg first.

Heat the oil and butter, and sweat the onions until soft but – hey, you guessed – not coloured. Add everything except the cauli, down to and including the black pepper, half fill the pot with boiling water, stir well, and bring back to the boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook until the parsnips, especially the cores, are soft (unless the cores are actually woody, and they shouldn’t be at this time of year, they’ll soften nicely). Later in the year you might have to remove the cores, so increase the quantity accordingly.

When the root veg is soft, toss in the cauli, raise the heat a little – no need to simmer now – and cook until the cauli is soft. Break up any big pieces with the back of a ladle. Add the butter beans, add sufficient boiling water to bring up to 4 litres** and allow to heat through, then remove from the heat.

Bear in mind that when the soup cools you’ll have rather less. The volume will come back up when it’s reheated.

Taste for seasoning when cool enough, adjust with the Malden flakes (for me, Malden enhances the flavour of vegetables as well as seasoning them).

At this point I usually tell you to refrigerate overnight once cold, but having nothing else I wanted to eat tonight, I had a bowl of this, and it was stunningly good. Not only that, after I’d had it, I felt better that I have for quite some time. Still do.

Go figure – beats the hell out of me.

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