I SPENT a bitter-sweet week with my oldest friend as we cleared her mother’s house. It brought back so many childhood memories: Sally’s herb collection with its 1960s lettering and — to us — exotic names. And the proudly purchased stainless-steel saucepans with elegant motifs on the side that now look too old-fashioned even for the charity shop. And then the scrap books and card index of recipes, yellowed and giving away their half-century in their curlicued fonts.
There is “Jane Grigson in the Kitchen” with a tart reminder that “soup may have started as a way of turning nothing much, even garbage, into food, but there is no need to underline its ancestry.” I’ve always loved her refusal to stint on butter and cream for any health considerations, and she won’t have it on grounds of economy, either.
Among the hoard was a much later cutting for a Cream of marrow soup, which is very seasonal. This is my vegetarian version.
450g (1 lb) marrow, peeled and cut into small chunks.
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
3 whole cardamom pods, crushed and tied in a muslin square
½l/1 pt vegetable stock
freshly grated nutmeg
juice of half a lemon
150ml (¼ pt) cream (or full-fat yogurt)
2 little courgettes, cut into small dice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the marrow, garlic, stock, cardamom bag, grated nutmeg, and lemon juice into a large saucepan, bring to the boil, and then simmer for half an hour. Remove the muslin bag and liquidise the soup in a blender. Reheat very gently, adding the courgette cubes, and cook for just 3 or 4 minutes before adding the cream or yogurt, adjusting the seasoning and serving.
This aromatic Tomato soup pleases me as a change from the hearty ones I tend to make. It also uses fresh tomatoes, which are plentiful now. Using large ones makes the skinning far less of a chore.
450g (1 lb) fresh tomatoes
1.5l (2½ pt) water
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoons tomato purée
10 cardamom pods, crushed and tied in a muslin square
2½cm (1-inch) cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
Fry the onion gently in the butter until it is tender. Add the tomatoes and water and bring to the boil. When the tomatoes are splitting, scoop them out and slip them out of their skins. If you want to, you can also de-seed them very easily at this point. Put them back in the water and add the spices, seasoning, and tomato purée. Simmer the soup for 10-15 minutes, fish out the cardamom bag and the cinnamon stick, liquidise the soup, and then check the seasoning before serving.