The humblest of soups

I cook more often than the average person, most likely. I love food, looking at it and playing with it and eating it, alone or with friends. But this does not mean I always have the time, energy or motivation to slug away for hours in the kitchen. And that’s ok! Sometimes the humblest of ingredients, prepared quickly and simply, yield a most satisfying meal. I’ll tell you about my day today, and I hope to show you that cooking doesn’t always have to a burden, a big deal, a flashy show… you can feed yourself, simply and well, without too much of a fuss.

So, I over-shopped at the market this morning. A fairly common occurrence, especially on a gloriously sunny winter day. Loaded with all sorts of roots, pumpkin, mushrooms, apples, leek, kale, and much more, I nonetheless decided to take a little shopping detour instead of heading home directly. By the time I did make it back, it was almost 2pm and I was starving. Lunch had to be quick. A little leftover millet and kohlrabi salad tossed with finely sliced ribbons of a funky conehead cabbage from the market, Nüssler salad, apples, pecans toasted for this morning’s porridge, a simple dressing (good olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, dried thyme) and a slice of Ängelibeck’s tasty bread spread with liutenitsa (Bulgarian roasted pepper spread). Took 10 minutes to throw together, and the belly was filled and happy.

Some work about the house and a mini cleaning spree later, it was time for dinner and I was tired and not feeling like complicated cooking. Plus, there were some leftover veggies that absolutely had to be used up before I could dig into today’s market treasures. The woeful list:

  • leek tops deemed not good enough for some fancier pumpkin chestnut soup
  • cabbage bits deemed not good enough for a coleslaw salad
  • half a celery root
  • a wilting bunch of kale
  • a few forgotten potatoes, growing little knobby bits
  • half a parsley bunch, on the brink of death
  • a block of tofu, past its due date (but still fine!)

I decided to throw everything into a soup pot and see what happens. A good amount of olive oil, plus a handful of sundried cherry tomatoes from the market also went in. To spice things up, I added some Mexican chili sauce hanging around in the fridge from the red posole we made for the last Habakuk dinner. And some of the copious amounts of self-dried thyme and rosemary, also from Habakuk. Less than 45 minutes of prep, cooking and cleaning up, and I had at least five servings of a tasty concoction from the humblest of ingredients. I imagine you can take this soup several ways depending on what you have on hand: substitute paprika or chili flakes for the chili paste, or add some mustard and make it a smooth potato-leek soup topped with simply sauteed garlicky kale and quick-fried tofu cubes. In any case, a squeeze of lemon in a soup right before serving is rarely a bad idea.

The queen of cooking with economy and grace, in my mind, is undoubtedly Tamar Adler. Her book, An Everlasting Meal, is an inspiration, a grounding, my culinary bible of sorts. She expands on the concept of feeding yourself and others without a fuss that I have tried to touch on today, reaching levels of articulation and beautiful language use that I can only ever hope of competing with. Highly recommended reading.

Oh and I suppose Christmas has sneaked up and is just around the corner. So I will leave you with the last Habacookie recipe, in case you need one more to round out your repertoire.

Rosemary and olive oil chocolate chip cookies

Adapted from this recipe
Makes 40-50 cookies, depending on the size

375g whole spelt flour
3 teaspoons flax seeds, ground
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1.5 teaspoons vanilla powder
pinch of salt
250g raw sugar
200ml olive oil
80ml soy milk
3 teaspoons vinegar (apple cider or white wine)
1.5 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped finely
150g dark chocolate chips (or a chocolate bar, chopped into rough pieces)

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  • Line a baking sheet with baking paper or a silicon baking mat.
  • Sift the dry ingredients (the first five) in a big bowl.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (all the rest except the chocolate) until well blended.
  • Pour the wet into the dry and stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  • Take a heaped tablespoon of the dough and shape into rough cookies (no need to fuss, just call them rustic or homemade).
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden and the top doesn’t sink in if you tap it lightly. Be careful not to over bake, otherwise they will be too hard.
  • Take out the oven, let cool for a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Or eat all of them. Right away.

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