Well, someone has to go first.
I suppose it helps that I’m ahead of the other bloggers here by a few hours, but dinnertime tonight definitely called for soup. It wasn’t particularly cold, but the morning was damp, a few hours of sun in the afternoon gave way to blustery darkness by about 4:30, and I committed to contributing to a soup blog. So here we go.
At the market: lovely carrots and decent-looking parsley. And grown in the UK no less. In my cupboard: onions, veg stock, some mushrooms I roasted on Monday, and sundry dry goods.
In an attempt to keep things relatively local* out of respect for the carrot farmers, I chose a recipe published by Martha Schulman of the NYT. Their new cooking site, if you haven’t experienced it already, is glorious.
This recipe hails from Crécy, which is just out of Calais. Calais is the entry point for the Eurostar from London, an important port since the middle ages, and the place where everyone who disembarks the auto-ferry from the UK temporarily experiences confusion at having to drive on the correct side of the road. It’s also mostly gray and damp, like England, so the growing seasons are short and the cuisine is consistent with much of Northern France – it’s highly seasonal, puts a strong emphasis on cooking methods that develop the flavor of vegetables (rather than their “off the vine” freshness), and isn’t afraid of animals or their byproducts.
As such, it can run a little rich. Don’t believe me? According to Lucien Febvre in his Essai de cartes des graisses de cuisine en France, “La cuisine du Nord-Pas-de-Calais est une cuisine au beurre“. So there you have it.
That said, one of the reasons I like this soup is that it just isn’t fatty and heavy – it’s lo-fi food of the earth at its best, putting the focus on quality ingredients and thoughtful preparation. And it is very, very delicious. It is a sweet, savory, and surprisingly elegant purée that is much more than the sum of its parts. Considering its humble beginnings and the total absence of dairy – especially unusual in soups from this part of the world – it actually turns out rather impressively, seeming like something that took a lot of time and training to get right. As such, it’s great for yourself, and for people who don’t eat dairy, meat, or gluten. Especially at a dinner party.
In terms of “what it’s like” day-to-day, this is perfect weeknight cooking. There are very few ingredients, most of which are already in your pantry, very little in the way of time-consuming preparation (provided you have a blender/food-processor), and results that are as satisfying as the the process is simple. Since there’s barely anything in it besides vegetables and water, it keeps wonderfully in the fridge (and maybe even gets better) for lots of days. So for all you singletons out there, this is the perfect way to free up a few nights a week, leaving ample time to try and fill that gaping void in your life that even soup won’t.
Anyway, the recipe is linked above. I omitted the sugar (you don’t need it if you have good carrots), and chose to garnish mine with the aforementioned parsley, croutons I made from the excellent rye bread I get from Euphorium Bakery (for a scant £2.70), and those mushrooms I had lying around. I think it’d probably be even better with chervil, tarragon, or some other anise-y type compliment to lend it a little extra depth. Oh, and don’t forget a splash of good olive oil on top at the end for un petit peu de cachet…
This recipe is: #easy #vegetarian #gluten-free #dairy-free #french #simple #puree #lo-fi #simple #elegant
While cooking, I listened to: Debussy Petit Suite L65, Schubert Arpeggione Sonata D821, and a lot of mixed Belle&Sebastian
*”Local” in this context is “closer than America”, “not that far away on a train”, and “in France, where the food is good”.