Yesterday morning, the girls ran outside into an icy frost that covered our new garden fence in crispy, white spikes. They scraped tracks with their fingers and collected ‘snow’ in their bare hands. Needless to say, I was soon wrapping a whimpering three-year-old’s frozen hands in my own whilst attempting to strap a struggling toddler into his buggy for the morning walk to my elder daughter’s school.
This morning, yesterday’s clear blue skies have been replaced by a grey dull drizzle that turned into a steady downpour just as I was carrying an old box of recipe books into the house from the garage. M is refusing to leave the snuggly warmth of her pyjamas and our cat is sitting mewling mournfully in front of the cat-flap, hoping that someone will turn off the rain.
And yet, far from battening down the hatches and going into hibernation for the winter months, we are busily preparing for the return of our builders tomorrow. They will begin stripping out the back of our house, knocking down a few walls and rebuilding a new shower-room and … most exciting of all … a much-improved, greatly-enlarged kitchen! I’m not sure where Christmas dinner fits into these plans (I might have to dust the flour off the microwave), but the disruption will be worthwhile. Our 1950’s mishmosh of irregularly-sized cupboards and loose-hinged doors is certainly well overdue a makeover. Now, the question is … what’s all this about induction?
With such preamble, I’m hoping to get in my excuses early for a forthcoming lack of posting while our kitchen is in boxes. Before I return to my packing duties though, here’s a warming tomato soup I made at the weekend to stave off the cold winter weather.
(Note: I used rice mirin to bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes, but you could easily replace this with a teaspoon of sugar if your larder isn’t as overflowingly eclectic as my own)
Winter Tomato Soup
2 oz butter
2 medium onions, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
125 ml milk
2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tbsp rice mirin
2 tins of tomatoes
2 carrots, diced
2 oz smoked ham, cubed
150 ml chicken stock
freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and gently fry the onion and celery until they start to caramelise (about 20 minutes).
Add the milk, marjoram and grated nutmeg. Bring to a boil and reduce by a third.
Add the rice mirin and tomatoes. Return to a boil then simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whizz in a food processor (I just used a hand-held one to save on washing up).
Return the soup to the pan (if it’s now anywhere else) and add the carrots and ham. Stir in enough stock to bring it to the thickness you prefer. Cover and simmer gently until the carrots are tender (add more stock if it becomes too thick).
Sprinkle with grated Parmesan just before serving.