Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Ode to Soup

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)
Fresh chives
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. 


  1. That recipe looks and sounds great, and well done to you for having the willpower to make it when you felt so lousy - you must have known it was going to be so worth it!
    I shall certainly try this one out, and I hope you are feeling better now.
    Thanks for visiting my blog and becoming a follower!
    Gill xx

  2. Thx Gill - doing much better, I knew I had to beat this thing before it turned into a real flu! And some good soup always seems to help - although that may just be in my mind! ;-)

    Thx for returning the visit - I'm always excited to meet new bloggy friends and discovering great 'new' blogs! Let me know if you do get to make the soup! ;-) xx

  3. I'm lucky: the last time I was sick it was fifteen years ago. Well if you don't count the huge pneumonia I had five years ago...but it was because I had to work for weeks in a very cold place and the job I did made me sweat a lot, so...enough details. I never get sick but I love what I call 'ill food', those kind of meals your mom makes when you are a child and you get the flu. Not even as a child I would get sick easily, so sometimes I asked my mom to cook 'ill food' for me...hot soup, smashed potatoes and certosa (it's a cheese). They can cheer me up immediately. Along with a huge chocolate bar, obviously.
    Thanks for the book suggestion. I never heard of the books but I remember they made a movie out of Miss Pettigrew, so the book must be good (I have no idea what's the movie is like). i think I'm going to take a look over at Book dep.

  4. Si - I think you should try to get the PD to make this one for you - or else exert some small pressure on your mate at the Banana Store to include a potato soup in the winter menu (IF a food snob like Derek won't dismiss that notion within two secs)! ;-D

  5. Hi Bobbi - I'm hardly ever sick too (knock wood!) but have been 'on the brink' a bit more often than I used to. I've never been so sick to have a pneumonia though! Nightmare!

    I totally get what you're saying re 'sick food' - in my family we have several dishes we associate with that comforting feeling of being taken care of when you're sick ;-) I don't think I've ever had certosa before - I LOVE cheese and we've got great cheese stores in town, so will check with them. A new cheese to discover is always good. Or not - weight wise that is!

    I didn't see the film either - I'm always afraid of being disappointed when they make a film out of one of my favourite books. With some of the Jane Austen films they did a good job however. But the book is lovely - Miss Buncle's book is great too. I'm going to do a post on them I think (without giving away too much). ;-)

  6. I'll have a go at asking the PD to make it ;D and that sounds a damm fine excuse to go and see Derek hahahahahahaha

  7. I quite feel like a bit of grazing over at the Banana Store - with one of Derek's killer cocktails obviously. If your lot weren't on strike I'd pop over! Not a bad Xmas menu btw. Dorset scallops... Sigh...

  8. I do so love soup. I'm excited to try this one.

  9. Do try it! It's hassle-free (part of the reason I like it so much!) ;-)

  10. this looks good and hearty. thanks!

  11. It's every bit as good as it looks Rebecca - tastes even better the next day! ;-)


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