As a little girl, my Mama called me the “soup kid.” Every single time we went out for lunch, supper, whatever, I ordered soup. I didn’t care what kind, I just ordered it. I also always remember having soup for lunch after church on Sundays. In addition, soups were the first things I learned to make at the Rose and Kettle Tearoom, where I worked as a teenager.
Soups are a snap to make, and I believe anyone – regardless of their cooking knowledge or talent – can whip them up in no time. They’re pretty hard to screw up. The trick is to taste as you go, and be aware of the strength of the flavours you’re adding.
I’ll tell you how I learned: at the Tearoom, the main cook/baker was a woman named Linda. She was a rough-looking lady, very short, with thick thick eye glasses like the bottom of a Corona bottle. She had hair to her waist that she kept in a single braid down the middle of her back. She lived upstairs in the Tearoom, in a 19th-century attic. She’d worked at the Tearoom for a very long time.
She taught me a lot. At first, she thought I was a bit of a princess, and poked fun at me when I did silly things like mop the floors without ringing out the mop (“You mean I actually have to ring out the mop with my HANDS?), but eventually she trusted me with small tasks, such as preparing the soup of the day.
Soups always start with some sort of a broth, she taught me. The Tearoom had lots of powered broths sitting around, like chicken, vegetable, beef and seafood. I could choose whichever I liked, depending on what I wanted to make. Then I’d almost always throw in chopped onions, carrots and potatoes, and then whatever other vegetables we had on hand. I’d season the soup with salt and pepper, and something get adventurous with other spices like thyme, oregano, garlic, etc. Sometimes I’d even puree half the soup, or all of it. After I’d mastered soups of all different kinds, I began to make them for the family at home.
That’s when my Mama gave me this book: Soups: Simple and Delicious Easy-to-Make Recipes by Frances Ros. At first glance, a lot of the soups looked complicated, because they called for ingredients I didn’t normally have around, or things I didn’t recognize. At the time, I didn’t know what a shallot, scallion, or bunch of cilantro was. And at age 15, I certainly didn’t have dry white wine kicking around the house either.
But as I’ve matured as a “culinarian”, I’ve attempted quite a few of the delicious soups from this book. I’ve made vichyssoise, leek & potato soup, and creamy carrot & parsnip soup, and have plans to try many more.
Today, it’s pea & mint soup. I always loved pea soup, and I had some mint kicking around that I needed to use up, so I picked up a giant bag of frozen peas at the grocery store. Since the book I’m using is out of print, here’s the recipe:
Pea & Mint Soup
1 lb frozen peas
2 tbsps mint
3.5 C vegetable broth
salt & pepper
It’s a very easy ingredient list (I actually never buy shallots, I just use the equivalent in onions. I know chefs would tell me there’s a massive difference between shallots and onions, but I couldn’t care less), and it’s very easy to make.
Guess where it begins? If you’re a devout reader of my blog, you know the answer: onions! I fried them in the butter, and then added leeks, potatoes, peas, mint, broth, and salt and pepper. I brought it all to a boil, and them let it simmer for 30 minutes. Then I let it cool completely and threw it in the blender until smooth.
Could that possibly be any easier? And healthier, for that matter? No. Definitely not. It’s like drinking liquid heath, for crying out loud! Peas are terrific for you. And with enough pepper, this soup is delicious.
So there you have it… my love of soups, an easy recipe, and a healthy lunch. Short and sweet!