I woke up on Saturday morning with a sore throat. My head felt really hot and my limbs were aching, and all I could think was: oh dear God NO. I so can not use a bout of the flu or a cold right now. Not in my weekend anyway.
I had to try and nip this thing in the bud, so I cancelled all my social commitments and installed myself on the sofa, cushions propped up in my back and wrapped in my warmest, softest blanket. Which happens to also be the prettiest one. Not that it matters but even when sick one does hope to do things in style. Bright flames in the fire place, a pot of tea with honey and a large stack of books by my side: the perfect conditions for a weekend of self-indulgence and pampering. Or so I thought.
I still couldn't help feeling shivery, light-headed and altogether weak. Which was getting in the way of my otherwise delicious sense of playing hooky. Obviously I needed to bring out the big guns to fight the malaise. Which in my family means bringing out the pots and pans and whipping up some comfort food.*
And what could make you feel warm and fulfilled quicker than that easiest of comfort foods: a big bowl of hearty soup? Liquid solace of the NON-alcoholic kind. A quick rummage in the fridge and the kitchen cupboards and I found I had the ingredients for a nice and rich potato soup. With a bit of extra kick to chase the last of the nasty germs away.
Under an hour later I was spooning up the result. And felt instantly better. With my soup cure, lots of naps, hot baths and general lazying about, I came out of the weekend feeling quite my old self again. I'll still make some more soup though this week I think. Just to be sure. You understand.
If any of you are suffering from the cold weather as well and could do with a quick pick-me-up - minimal effort required - here's what you need. Don't be fooled into thinking a potato soup must be quite a bland affair. This soup is packed full of flavour and the bit of extra (chilli pepper) kick will make your toes curl. And your eyes water. Nah, just kidding. Honest.
Ingredients (European measurements)
A few bits of pancetta or any other kind of smoked, streaky bacon
Two table spoons of olive oil
One finely chopped shallot or half of a regular onion - red onion adds a bit of extra flavour
Two small cloves of garlic - or one big one, chopped
One not too small chilli pepper, chopped
350 gr of potato, sliced into small parts (about 3 big potatoes and one small one)
600 ml chicken stock
125 ml of cream
250 ml of milk
25 gr of flower
50 gr of strong Italian cheese like parmezan (or actually, any other cheese you like)
Black pepper to taste
Heat up a big pan and let the bacon get crispy in its own fat. Take it out and keep aside. Add some olive oil (about two table spoons) to the bacon fat. Stir in the onion first and let it colour a bit, then add the garlic and the chilli pepper. Don't let the garlic get too brown, it'll taste bitter (she says from experience).
Add the chicken stock and the potato, bring to the boil and let simmer for about 25 minutes till the potato is soft. If you prefer a chunky soup or just can't be bothered with any extra effort (that would be me), just mash the potato up a bit with a fork or with a masher, while still in the pan. If you prefer a smooth soup, put the whole thing in a food processor. Keep in mind that that means extra things to clean. Just saying.
Put the milk, the cream and the flower in a bowl and stir together, then stir it slowly into the soup. Don't worry if you don't have any flower - the soup will be a little less solid but the taste will be great all the same. Add black pepper to taste (the soup shouldn't really need any extra salt because of the chicken stock, and the bacon and cheese that are added as a topping - but check anyway).
Fill a large bowl with soup, add a bit of the cheese and bacon and sprinkle with fresh chives. As this is quite a rich soup I would normally have it with a nice green salad, but this time I made some yummy, crunchy bruschetta with tomato. To die for.
In case you're wondering: I did not burn the bread. This was a wholegrain baguette - so quite dark in colour to begin with. Not that it would matter because I quite like burnt bits anyway. Yes, I KNOW those aren't good for you. Like a lot of other great things (theatrical sigh).
* Even when half dead we can still whip up some comfort food. What can I say.