Saturday, 12 February 2011

Winter root vegetables soup

Today I realized February must be my favourite month of the year. Whilst other parts of the world experience a tooth droppingly cold weatherת the weather in Tel Aviv is cold enough to help me forget how hot August was but is mild enough that I don’t need more then a jacket and a scarf around my neck to feel cosy and warm. Its when Tel Aviv shines and is at its best. Summer is long forgotten and one just might experience a day or two of rain. I can leave the house without taking my sunglasses but can still enjoy a coffee sitting out, enjoying the sun without the glare burning through.

Every winter I find myself returning to one dish over and over, recreating it in more ways then one. Three years ago it was a comforting honey- cinnamon semolina porridge with toasted Belgian waffles croutons, two years ago it was poached egg on rice, last year is a blur and this year is the year of the soup. Not just any soup but one soup; a chunky winter soup made from earthy root vegetables and sweet almost potato-y butter beans. It is a thick, hearty and satisfying soup cooked with a stock I make from marrow bones. This, as I discovered, is a clever move for more reasons then one. The stock adds that je ne sais quoiumamiX factor to the soup, but with using any meat, so it comes guilt free. The carcass, an otherwise discarded by- product is either cheap or for free, depending on the mood my butcher is in, so I get to save money too, always a bonus.

Did I mention that its tastes good so much so I'd rather stay in with a bowl?

I give you this winter’s staple soup in my kitchen, and mostly, when it comes to next years cold season, I’ll have this recipe posted here to remind me what kept me nourished and warm all over on most days, even when it wasn't really cold outside.

Winter root vegetables soup

Marrow bone stock

I usually get these free from the butcher, pop them in the oven for about 40 minutes until they are fully roasted. The bones are then boiled with water, then seasoned with turmeric, mace and white peppercorns and left to simmer for about 40 minutes. voila! a wonderful stock ready for use.

1-2 cups lima/ butter beans, soaked overnight, then cooked in water with added sage leaves, until soft but not mush, about 40 minutes.

1 onion or 2 leeks, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1-2 potatoes, diced

1 fennel, diced

1 turnip, diced

1 chilli pepper, finely chopped (optional)

1 cauliflower, chopped (optional)

1-2 zucchini, diced

1 bunch wild spinach, chopped

Freshly ground white peppercorns

Freshly ground turmeric

Freshly ground mace

Sea salt, to taste

Olive oil

Serve with:

Grated Parmesan cheese

Poached egg

Heat a large saucepan with a glug of olive oil. add the chopped onion or leek and fry until golden. Gradually add each of the chopped vegetables (potatoes, fennel, turnip, zucchini cauliflower and chilli, if using, and garlic), allowing a few minutes between them and stirring occasionally.

When all of the vegetables haven been added and have begun to caramelize in places pour the stock (about 2 litres), cover and bring to a boil.

Season with the ground turmeric, mace, salt and pepper, add the spinach and butter beans, reduce to a medium heat, cover and allow to gently simmer for 15 minutes.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.

Serve with a toasted slice of bread generously lathered with salted butter.

Note: this soup, as goes with soups, tastes better the day after it was made and get better with everyday that goes by for about 4 days. Some meals, I re-boil the soup with pasta shells for a satisfying meal in a bowl.

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