Soup isn't always the most exciting thing to have for dinner - it's generally never fried, crispy, crunchy, chocolate dipped, or any of those things that can be so, so good about eating. However this recipe is courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi, whose way with food is always exciting. That said, you've got to make sure you really read the ingredient list, simple as it looks, and don't miss anything out. Each thing, from the sticks of celery to the bay leaves play their important part, allowing the soup to neatly dodge the whole "wait, what? This is just bits of herbs floating in warm water" vibe.
Unfortunately I can't avoid my "awful low-lighting and also prosaic soup composition photos" vibe. First comes the better control of photography on a Winter's night, then comes the better composition. I promise you I'm reading...well, looking for, my camera's instruction manual.
From Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty
4 shallots (or an onion) finely sliced
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
40g butter (optional - just use the oil if you like)
2 T olive oil
25 garlic cloves, finely sliced (yes, peeled and sliced, sorry)
2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 tsp finely chopped thyme leaves
200ml white wine
generous pinch saffron threads (optional...because I accidentally left it out)
4 bay leaves
1 litre good-quality vegetable stock
1/2 tsp sea salt
Parsely, coriander and Greek yoghurt and harissa to serve.
Fry your shallots or onions and celery in the butter and oil till soft and translucent - keep an eye on them, don't let them turn brown. Add the garlic and continue to cook over a low heat, then stir in the ginger and thyme, followed by the wine which will bubble up and reduce down a bit. Then add the saffron, bay leaves, salt and stock and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Note: I acknowledge peeling and slicing all that garlic is a big pain, but it's worth it in terms of flavour. Maybe a buddy you can enlist, in exchange for feeding them soup?
Ottolenghi says to blitz with a hand blender or in a food processor but I didn't have the energy for that - all the lifting and the assembling and the cleaning on a cold dark night...and it seemed just fine as it was.
As I said, every ingredient is important - the wine against the hot pan, evaporating into concentrated savoury goodness, the vigorous burst of ginger heat, the softened, traditional flavours of the onion and celery. The heavy spoonful of yoghurt isn't exactly essential but I would definitely not leave out the green garnishy things on top - coriander's fresh taste goes well with the rest of the soup, but it also makes it look a bit more presentable. If you don't have harissa (I did) you've got a number of options - stir in some sambal oelek, chopped red chilies, or replace the olive oil with chili oil. Or, of course, ignore the chili altogether.
I realise I've spent nearly this whole thing saying how not-fun soup is, but this stuff is truly gorgeous (not-not-fun?), a broth of flavours unfurling like flannel sheets grabbed straight from the dryer - warming, comforting, lightly textured.
Work took me down to Christchurch on Saturday, and I was fortunately able to have a quick catch up with Mika of the mighty fine Millie Mirepoix blog who coincidentally was also down from Wellington. The chilling rubble of half-formed houses and the constant road-blocking cordons, the cracks in the road and the buildings that you had to look at twice to register that they were leaning on an angle or sunken in the middle made me feel a bit queasy and sad inside and it would've been easy to get stuck focussing on that. Not that it shouldn't be focussed on (it should! But in a "now what" kind of way, maybe? Not really my place to say) but what I mean is, it was really good to see a friendly face amongst it all, and to contribute in a small way to the local economy by getting coffee and a really, really good Cherry Ripe Slice at Beat Street Cafe and another fantastic coffee from Black Betty's. If you're heading to Christchurch I totally recommend these places - they're open, they're friendly and they're serving up seriously good food.
Title via: Laurie Anderson's intriguing, staccato yet tranquil O Superman. Admittedly I don't know a lot of her stuff (only really this and Language Is A Virus), and it can be, to someone attuned to songs being a bit verse-chorus-verse-chorus and so on, a bit challenging, but I do like it a lot, and not just because Idina Menzel cites Anderson as someone she studied for her character of Maureen in RENT (I heard Anderson first, so!)
Lena Horne - who died just over a year ago now - and her beautiful version of I Got Rhythm from the Lovely and Alive record.
Joy Division, Love Will Tear Us Apart. Heard it this morning for the first time in ages on the radio. It's a bit obvious, but it's always good. (Speaking for the original only, not cover versions...)
Next time: My invention of gingerbeer scones possibly hasn't been thought of before because they weren't as wildly gingery as I thought they'd be...but they were still delicious, and I took photos of them anyway.