In a move that was well-timed with the end of the eerie but enjoyable warm November we’ve been having, my friend Christie invited me to join her Soup Swap last week. There’s not much to explain beyond the name: we make soup and swap it. There are three of us in total, so I walk away from each swap with two double portions of soup (one for me, one for Beth) plus the soup I’ve made. In a contactless exchange, I got a Moroccan lamb stew (We’re defining “soup” broadly.) and Hungarian-style mushroom soup accompanied by a homemade sourdough batard.
Just right for a bunch of lunches this week. Not only are we giving ourselves more variety, we’re also distributing the labour of food prep. If you have a working mother in your life, maybe a Soup Swap would be a helpful thing to suggest.
On my end, I made Guelph Soup. It’s my attempt to recreate a fantastic soup I had at Artisanale, a French restaurant in Guelph. Creamy and studded with bits of potato, carrot, onion, mushroom and celeriac, as well as torn bits of baguette, I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to reverse-engineer. After a few attempts, I had what I thought was a pretty decent version on my hands.
It starts by melting some butter in a pot over medium heat.
Then sauteing the onion, carrot, and celeriac until they are softened, but not browned.
Adding a pinch of salt will help draw out the moisture from the veg and speed the process along. Once the veg in the pan are soft, add the mushrooms and continue to saute.
Toss in a few single sprigs of thyme or one meaty bastard like this one. Again, I don’t see the point of picking the leaves off the stems. They fall off themselves in the pot.
The Wee Beastie has learned the difference between the fridge opening and the crisper drawer being pulled out. He ignores the former but comes running for the latter because there’s a chance he will get a sprig of something to play with.
A splash of white vermouth is nice if you have it on hand. Let it almost completely evaporate before moving on.
After that, add in chicken stock. Mine was some I made in the Instant Pot last week. Or vegetable stock if you’re keeping things meat-free. (But there’s heavy cream coming up soon, so there really isn’t a way to make this vegan.)
Bring to a boil, add some potato, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes have just a little bit of raw crispness in their centers. A knife tip should encounter a bit of resistance when poked in.
In the meantime, try to get the cats to stop rasslin’ directly behind you.
When the potatoes are just about ready, add heavy cream and then start adjusting your flavours.
This batch was missing a savory, bottom umami note, so as well as salt and pepper, I tried a few different things from the cupboard, including soy sauce, Worcestershire, and good ol’ MSG. (Calm down. There is almost no evidence that MSG affects people adversely and lots of evidence that the fear of MSG is based on racist beliefs. Read more about it here.) Maggi seasoning would have been good to use as well, but it was farther back in the cupboard than I was willing to reach.
When the flavour is right for you, stir in your baguette shards. If you don’t have baguette, any flavourful bread could stand in. Sourdough would be good. (I had sourdough baguette, so win-win). I don’t like many whole-grain breads, so I would avoid them, but you do you.
What should result is a warming bowl with lots of different flavours in every spoonful, the colour, as Nigella Lawson once said in reference to maple meringues, “the colour of expensive oyster-satin underwear.”
If you’re interested in a more complete recipe, you can find it here. As I mention there, this is an easy soup to dress up with chives, or perhaps some mussels, smoked fish, or even a little dollop of caviar.
What I’m Consuming…
Ivy Knight’s terrific article, “The Nova Scotia Lobster Wars,” about the clash between Mi’kmaq lobster fishers trying to assert their right to a moderate livelihood fishery and the non-Indigenous fishers trying violently to stop them. Ivy is a writer I very much admire. She has an expanded view of what food writing can be that goes beyond a closed universe centred around chefs and restaurants. Her writing often explore more interesting intersections of food and the rest of the word.
In order to feel the Soup Swap beast, I hauled out a bunch of cookbooks. Dishoom has no soup recipes, but I have never delved into it as much as I should.
Takeout from Sakai Bar. I miss sitting at Stu Sakai’s counter and taking a journey through sake, accompanied by super-tasty bites. The katsu sando deserves to be more famous in Toronto. The kakuni—pork belly and daikon braised in dashi—is the stuff of my dreams. Order takeout via Ambassador and the restaurant gets everything you pay without an app taking a cut.
What’s on the Menu…
We’re near the end of our meal planning cycle, so not much before we make a new plan tonight. All kinds of warm and cozy things, I’m guessing.
Tonight’s dinner is Hawa Hassan’s Digaag Qumbe, a Somali stew with chicken and yogurt. Hawa is one of the people of colour who talked this summer about the very poor treatment she experienced at Bon Appetit. For the video of her making this recipe, she was paid only $400. A tiny amount compared to what white hosts were making. I’d rather not drive traffic to BA, but this recipe is very good. So print it out and you only have to visit once!
After the last issue, a few people asked me where to get beluga lentils and 1/8 sheet pans. Both are available on Amazon, but they really don’t need your money. In Toronto, Fiesta Farms definitely has belugas, as will most health food stores. (I’m told The Big Carrot has them in bulk. Thanks, Mark!) Any restaurant supply store should have all sizes of sheet pan to full down to 1/8. Buy more than one and you won’t stop finding new uses for them.
Any questions from this issue? Let me know at mike [at] takasaki.ca