It's like a hug in a bowl; a warming, steaming vessel full of the most simple of ingredients, most of the time. It's in the chopping; the stirring; the simmering and on occasion, when it is called for, the blending that creates either a chunky, hearty concoction or one that is like the softest of silk touching your lips.
It's enjoyed best in front of the warm glow of a crackling open fire on an icy cold winters evening, rain drops falling heavily on the rooftop, which reminds me of a beautiful quote I read just the other day from Yukio Mishima, "The sound of rain is like the voices of tens of thousands of monks reading sutras." It is quite meditative listening to it, don't you think? Saturating everything in its path, soaking into the soil, bunkering down indoors and surrendering to its beauty, while you curl up on the couch sinking ever so slowly into the softness of the cushions, wrapped up in the cosiest of cosy pyjamas. Hot buttered toast on the side to swipe every last drop that remains in the bowl, for not even a spoon can reach them.
As the days become shorter and the nights become darker we all tend to slow down, well at least try to anyway. We enjoy more of those slow-cooked meals and meals that nourish and warm us up from the inside out.
Does anyone else feel that they tend to eat more in winter? I think its a given really, isn't it? Ben and I were having this conversation just the other day as he opened the fridge door yet again, stood there, went to the pantry, stood there, went over to the bench where the bread is usually kept, stared at it. I knew he was searching for something and he turned and said to me, "This cold weather makes me so hungry" I agreed and wondered why.....
Although its been cold it still hasn't stopped Beau and I from rugging up and heading out for our walk, skin prickly and tight as the icy cold air hits our faces. When we return home with flushed cheeks, I kick my shoes off at the front door whilst balancing the little man on my hip. as the door opens we fall into the warmth of our little abode.
The kettle usually goes on and if not then its usually a mug of hot cacao or matcha. As my fingers curl around the smoothness of my mug I can finally feel the blood pulsating back through them again.
The pot is pulled from the drawer, placed on the stove and the soup from the night before is heated through. As the bubbles slowly start to rise to the surface, the windows become foggy and hot toast is buttered, unevenly distributed so that every now and then a bite will be taken containing a pool of melted, buttery deliciousness.
There is usually crumbs and splatters and one of us will end up with it all over our face, but our tummies are happy and we are warm and for that I am truly grateful.
This soup is quite simple and easy and perfect for using up whatever you may have lying around in your fridge or pantry. If you don't have Moghrabieh (giant cous cous) simply add a can of beans or lentils, if you only have spinach and no cavolo nero use that instead, or even kale if you wish. There are no set rules here so get creative, you may just be surprised at what you can rustle up when you think you have not much at all.
A simple tummy warming soup with torn bread & pecorino
This makes enough for at least 4-6 people depending on how hungry you all are, when its just Ben and I we have leftovers for a couple of days. Just a little extra water when reheating.
3 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
120 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 zucchini, diced
2 brown onions, diced
4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
2 sticks of celery, finely sliced
2 carrots, diced
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp dried oregano (I like to use the Greek oregano)
400g can whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup Moghrabieh (Giant cous cous)
1 litre chicken broth or stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups water
About 350g cavolo nero, stems removed, leaves washed and shredded
3 slices seeded sourdough
Shaved pecorino, to serve
In a medium saucepan, pop your potatoes in to cold, salted water and bring to the boil over a high heat. Cook until tender, then drain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and cook the zucchini, onion, garlic, celery and carrots for about 20-30 minutes until they have turned lovely and caramelised. This may take longer, but you just want them to be golden, so they add a beautiful flavour to the soup.
Stir in the fennel seeds, bay leaves, oregano, tomatoes (crushing these up as you go, but be careful as they do sometimes tend to explode a little bit!) and your stock/broth and water. Bring to the boil, add in the cous cous and potatoes and reduce to a simmer, cook until the cous cous is tender.
Stir in the cavolo nero and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste to see if it needs salt or pepper. Toast your bread. Generously spread with butter and then tear it up into chunks. Ladle the soup into warm bowls, top with the toasted chunks of bread and then finally shave over a very generous amount of a beautiful bitey pecorino or parmesan.
Then curl up on that couch and enjoy every warming mouthful!