I am married to Mr. Worst-Case-Scenario. Maybe he is just prudent, being his old pragmatic self again. And anyway, who am I to talk? Although I have often been wrongly accused of being overly optimistic about anything and everything, I cannot live in a gloom & doom world. I want to think that everything is coming up roses, that people are inherently good and honest, and that when times get tough, the tough get cracking.
But JP has visions of bread lines and soup kitchens. He believes that the mess brought on by the Economic Crisis is only the beginning. The Great Depression all over again. Maybe I shouldn’t be talking of this here, bringing up a painful subject over dinner. But his prophecy of people standing in long lines up and down the street waiting for a bowl of soup has stirred up in me the desire to pull out my huge pressure-cooker and make a pot of hot, soothing, healthy and inexpensive soup. My own little Soup Kitchen to chase away the scary financial demons.
JP did grow up in the most practical of homes, his parents and grandparents having gone though the two World Wars in the north of France; being chased from their home, only to return at the end of the war to find their house destroyed, all possessions and personal treasures either gone or turned to dust. They struggled through the hardships of rebuilding and starting over after two World Wars, learning to scrimp and save, educating their children that it was a sin to throw anything away or waste even a crumb of bread.
He grew up learning to cook at the side of a woman who knew how to create delicious, homey meals out of the least expensive of products, recreating new meals out of yesterday’s leftovers, cooking with local and seasonal products only, and, later on, using what was grown in their own garden. Nothing was thrown away, nothing was lost. She never took abundance for granted. Her cooking was plain and simple, filled with the good things of the earth and every mouthful was appreciated.
So I can understand why talk of Soup Kitchens and Bread Lines affects JP deep in his soul. Efficiency and common sense kick in. But we are a resilient people and hope is always hovering right behind the pull-‘em-up-by-the-bootstraps hard work.
Here is a basic, simple and inexpensive Vegetable Soup recipe. Once you have the basic ingredients of onion and garlic, the rest you can make up with whatever is in season or whatever you like best. I usually always put in a couple of carrots and a couple zucchini, but after that I may never end up with the same soup twice. I usually use a large handful of green beans, but today a head of broccoli was 0.99€ and the green beans were 6 €/kg so I opted for the broccoli! I also love adding fresh pumpkin, cut into large chunks. You can also throw in any combination of fresh or dried herbs you like.
One word of warning : if you are going to purée this to have a smooth soup and you want to use potatoes, you will get the best results by puréeing by hand with a mill.
Using an electric one may turn your potatoes into a sticky paste.
SOUP KITCHEN SOUP to chase away the Economic Crisis Blues
You can make this for any number of people or enough to eat for a couple of days with extra to freeze by simply adding more vegetables. This is what I used today :
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
10 oz (300 g) white mushrooms
1 small head of broccoli
Large handful of chopped fresh flat parsley
Salt and freshly grated black pepper
2 dried bay leaves and a few stems of thyme
1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube (optional, but it does give a richness to the flavor of the soup)
1 can (14.5 oz, 400 g) of chopped tomatoes
Small can of white beans/cannelloni beans (or beans of choice), drained and rinsed
Clean, trim, peel (where necessary) all the vegetables and cut into chunks or thick coins. Chop the parsley.
Chop the onion and garlic.
In a large pressure-cooker, heat up a few tablespoons of Olive Oil. Add the onions and fry for a few minutes until shiny and translucent; add the chopped garlic and continue cooking for a minute or two until the garlic is soft and the onion is just starting to turn golden.
Toss in all of the vegetables except the canned beans. Add the canned chopped tomatoes, a generous shake of salt and ground pepper, the bay leaves and the thyme and parsley, the bouillon cube and cover with water.
Put the lid on tightly, bring to the boil, and when it comes to a full steam, turn the heat down to low and allow to pressure cook for 20 minutes.
At the end of the 20 minutes turn off the heat and allow the steam to escape. Now very carefully remove the lid (so as not to burn yourself with escaping steam). Remove the bay leaves and the stems from the thyme. Purée, if desired.
When smooth, add the beans, stir and reheat through before serving.
I made the most simple of croutons tonight; I trimmed and buttered both sides of plain white sandwich bread (I had nothing better) and fried in a dry, heated non-stick pan until they were browned on both sides. You can also serve this soup with grated cheese, whatever you like best!
And if you are wondering how economical it was to trim the bread, I can assure you that between me and Marty, they were not wasted! Just don’t tell JP!