Sunday, 24 November 2013

Seminar Wine Soup, or Preparing for a Foreign Thanksgiving

Late antique letter-writers had a dictum that a letter should not have more than a single subject, lest the lack of focus detract from the letter's quality. This post has two subjects, but they are hopefully interrelated enough to escape Sidonius Apollinaris' ire.

Like he even ever wrote about cabbage soup anyway.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we? Today is the Sunday before Thanksgiving and on Thursday at 7:30pm, after early medieval seminar, I hosting a meal for about fifteen people. That has meant several constraints:

1) Everything but the turkey has to be done before I leave at 4:40pm, from which follows
2) I am not allowed to make every dish on the menu
3) The turkey has to cook during the seminar

Yesterday I made a document called Thanksgiving Battle Plan, which is already altering in the face of contact with the enemy...since rather than the turkey crown I was planning to make, I went and bought a whole medium turkey (God bless Aldi. And yes, I thought about the large one but then realized it wouldn't fit in my fridge. The buck has to stop somewhere.) My plan is divided into: nibbles (spiced maple pecans); bread basket (two kinds, may go down to just one), salads (carrot salad and dump-green-leaves-in-a-bowl-and-make-dressing), stuffing (gonna get a housemate to put that in the oven), turkey, and two kinds of pie. I'm going to adapt a friend's rum and spice pumpkin pie to be vegan (cross your fingers for that one) and I'll be making my signature cranberry apple pie, because last Christmas I froze some cranberries and I can. Whoot!

This is still an insane amount of work so today I am making what will be my lunches and dinners for the week, which brings us to Seminar Wine Soup.

What do you do when the convenor goes round the room asking all the grad students if they want the opened, unfinished, bottle of white wine? Me, I wait to see if anyone else has strong wishes to claim it, and then I grab it, because I keep white wine on hand for cooking, and getting it free is always excellent.

One of the things I made with the wine is cabbage soup. I've been trying to love cabbage since I moved to England, and I won't say I've succeeded yet. But this is a start, and it's what is going to keep me going this week while I (try to) finish off an article and cook a big dinner for medievalists and friends.

Seminar Wine Soup

(from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antonie d'Avila-Latourrette. He calls this Caldo Verde, Portuguese Cabbage Soup)

I imagine this would be excellent with some chorizo but I haven't tried that yet.

1/2c olive oil
3 onions, chopped
4-6 potatoes
1 small cabbage (I use Savoy)
8c water (or to cover the veg--I don't usually measure) + a veggie boullion cube or two
1c white wine 
salt and pepper as needed

Chop the onions and put the olive oil in a soup pot (you will need your largest one; the cabbage takes up a lot of space). Add onions. While those are cooking, keep an eye on them, and chop your cabbage. Peel the potatoes.

Add the cabbage to the pot and chop the potatoes. Then add the potatoes, and over them pour water to cover. (You can add chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes if you wish. I do.) Pour in your seminar wine. Add salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil.

Once it's at a boil. reduce the heat, cover it, and simmer for around forty-five minutes. Check to see if it needs more salt and pepper.

Turn off the heat and let the soup cool a little. Enjoy!

Makes 6 servings

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Please, God, Let Me Live

I got back to the United Kingdom this morning after flying via O'Hare. It was my first visit to that infamous airport and I'm delighted that it was uneventful--even if my flight from Boston landed when the one to Chicago started boarding, which is not soothing to the nerves.

You know what else tears my nerves, those fragile, fragile things, to pieces? Unexpected loud noises. Alert readers will realise that today is Guy Fawkes Day. For the past month, my local grocery store has had a MASSIVE display of fireworks right by the entrance. The racket started as soon as it got dark and it doesn't look like it'll let up for the next six hours. Meanwhile, I am so tired the world is gently bobbing up and down; I ate dinner (recipe to be posted soon; it makes a lot, tastes fantastic, and freezes) for dinner and jumped out of my chair when I thought someone had set my house on fire. I calmed down once I saw that the flickering light was just the neighbours parading around with sparklers but the whee of some fireworks and the bang of others are ongoing.

Hence, soup. When I first lived in England as a clueless twenty-year-old, I made a lot of soup. In part, this was because I lived in a shared flat with limited kitchen equipment and in part because I was living in one of my two beloved Expensive Towns. Behold, it was beautiful there:

Vegetables were cheap; meat wasn't, and soup lasts for the better part of a week. My sister sent me this recipe in one of her letters. It is good and soothes all manner of terrors.

Apple and Butternut Squash Soup
(adapted from Heartland by Marcia Adams)

Note: I'm going by my hazy memory of the last time I made this; adjust the spices to your own taste. 'Mixed spice' is a UK blend which includes cinnamon, cardamon, and a bunch of other good things--I used it because I don't have the ground cardamon the original recipe requires.

Further Note: England does not have nonalcoholic pressed cider as it is made in New England. Cloudy apple juice is the next best thing.

1 large butternut squash
1/4c vegetable oil
1 large onion
2 medium apples
3/4tsp curry powder
3/4tsp nutmeg
1/2tsp mixed spice
1c cloudy apple juice
1 cube vegetable boullion + 4c water
1/2c milk
1/2tsp salt
1/2tsp pepper

Turn your oven on to 200C. Cleave the squash in twain and scoop out the seeds. Put it on a baking tray and roast for forty-five minutes to an hour, while you do other things. For me this other thing was making dinner; I roasted the squash the day before I planned to make soup. You do whatever makes you happy. (This step saves you having to cut up and peel a butternut squash.)

Heat the oil in large soup pot. Chop the onion and add it, frying until soft. While that's happening, peel and cut up the apples.You will need to pause to stir the onions once or twice. Add the apples to the pot and stir a bit. When the onion and apples are soft, scoop the squash out of its skin, and dump it in. Stir it so that everything is coated with oil.

Add all the spices and stir to incorporate. Then pour in the apple juice and let it cook for a few minutes. Chuck in your boullion cube and your water. Simmer the soup for about half an hour, until apple and onion are tender.

Let the soup cool a bit and then blend with an immersion blender. Stir in the milk, salt, and pepper.

Makes 5-6 servings. Freezes well.

(Title of this post taken from Sherlock.)