Stancombe Research and Planning holds a weekly Soup Kitchen throughout the winter months where staff members take it in turns to cook soup for their fellow colleagues. A donation is made by all each week for their soup which at the end of winter is handed over to Father Sinn of St Canices Church. All of the money raised goes straight to supporting their own soup kitchen, one that has a long history of feeding the impoverished men and women of Kings Cross and beyond.
To say that I was apprehensive about my own efforts is the understatement of the year, the standard set in incredibly high, and I have tasted some of the best soups ever, so with the bar set high I was not looking forward to having to prepare not one, but two soups….
Although I have been on a bit of a bake-fest of late, anyone who knows me will know that kitchens and I do not mix well together. I actually have a fridge magnet at home that says “I have a kitchen only because it came with the house”, how true that is. I even managed to live in one place before for a good 6mths before I even turned on the oven, actually I didn’t turn it on a friend came round to cook me dinner and when she got there no light would come on when she turned any of those knobs on the thing. She opened the oven door and found all the “stuff” inside was still in wrapping and it had not even been plugged in. We ended up getting take-out that night, something to do with the fact that you have to ‘burn off’ something or other before you use it, whatever.
Now I have used a hob before, that’s what they call those hot round things on the top right?
So as you can imagine making a soup was going to be a bit of a challenge for me. However, everyone here at Stancombe makes a real effort and it’s for a good cause so I decided to take on the challenge and told myself “I can do that”.
My friends were all worried I might actually burn down the building and find myself out of work, as the last two times I have attempted the feat of making beans on toast have I have failed (miserably). I seem completely unable to get the timing right of the toast popping up in the toaster and the beans nicely bubbling in the saucepan together. My toast pops too early so down it goes again and then by the time the beans are done the toast has turned into something resembling coal. So that gets thrown out and more bread goes down in the toaster but then by the time that pops my beans have turned to mush and stuck to the pan….
I was given some great advice by The All Knowing I, who said I should make a nice and simple soup that has just two key ingredients. That is how I ended up making Broccoli and Cheese soup for my first attempt.
I was on cooking duties with Clive, who made a far more complicated soup than I, so hat’s off to him. We decided to make our soups together the night before, so come the night we were both there chopping away glass of wine in hand (to steady the nerves) and pans at the ready. His very quickly looked like something wholesome and tasty…. Mine on the other hand “looked liker a puddle of dirty water” (you know who you are). It really did look terrible sat side by side with Clive’s and I worried I had done something wrong. I must have picked up the recipe notes 100 times to check I had not missed anything. I was desperate to call a friend or ask the audience but I was on my own here.
The magic moment came when I blended the soup – all of a sudden it actually looked like a soup, the wonders of cooking technology….. and can you Adam and Eve it, it actually tasted like a real soup as well.
For my second attempt I followed The All Knowing I’s advice again, in fact he gave the advice, recipe, cooking instruction and even took me shopping to buy the ingredients, but no he was not there to guide me as I made it.
I made a parsnip and wholegrain mustard soup, which trust me tasted like Christmas in a bowl…
Will I be making it again? Will I buggery, the stress was far too much. But if you want to make it here is what to do:
Roughly chop onion and gently sweat in oil / butter with a sprinkling of salt.
Wash and roughly chop potatoes and parsnips (snip off both ends of the parsnips) – no need to peel if you give things a good wash.
Pieces the size of like roast potatoes.
When onions are browned, toss the pots and parsnips into the pan and whoosh it all around for a few minutes in the oil…just to get the veg coated
Grind in a good amount of black pepper at this point.
Then cover with stock / water….and bring to boil.
Let it all boil for circa 30 mins.
Veg should be soft and sort of falling to bits.
Let it cool for a while (about an hr)
Then liquidize in batches – it’ll probably be quite thick, make sure mix of veg and liquid.
Basic soup is now ready.
When you come to prepare it for eating, you need to heat it gently in a pan…when it is hot, stir in the cream and about 1 teaspoon per person of the wholegrain mustard.
You should end up with a creamy, yellow soup with mustard grains in it…and it should be delicious and warming.