The True Test: Making Something From Nothing


When you return home from holiday on a Sunday evening, and all the shops in your vicinity adhere to the Sunday Trading Laws like Santa keeps to his rigid reindeer-driven time table … and don’t tell me there’s no Santa because I swear that I saw him driving a taxi in Baden Baden, Germany, last week … well, what the heck do you fix for dinner when the fridge only contains an onion, a sprouting clove of garlic, 2 limp carrots, and a few stalks of wobbly celery. The pantry is fairly lean as well. I can count everything in there on the fingers of one hand: a tin of Italian plum tomatoes, chickpeas, crisp sweet corn, and a few dried chilli peppers. Well, you scrounge the garden for edibles and collect a leek, a few courgettes, two potatoes missed somehow by my spade, and then you head back into the kitchen and do a lot of chopping. And pretend that you’re really happy to be back home from a fabulous two week holiday.

Off-the-Cuff Veg Soup

Prep: Dice to thumbnail size: courgettes, carrots, celery, peeled potatoes, and onion. Cut the leek into 1/2 inch rings, and crush the garlic straight into the pot with a bit of olive oil. Sauté the garlic for a few seconds, and then take the pot off the heat.

Method: Pour the tomatoes and juice from the tin into the pot with the garlic. I used a handblender to purée the tinned tomatoes right in the pot so it’s smooth, and then filled the empty tin with water to rinse out the remaining bits of tomato – that went straight into the pot along with a tablespoon of liquid concentrate chicken bouillon. Then I tossed all of the chopped ingredients (except the courgette) into the pot, all chopped at approximately the same size for similar cooking times, and simmered until just barely tender (5-10 minutes). Then I threw in the cubed courgette and sweet corn so that they simply warmed in the soup rather than cooking. Overcooked courgette is totally icky. Taste and adjust for saltiness, and then add a good handful of parsley and stir.

While all that was going on, I toasted a few thickly sliced pieces of homemade sourdough from the freezer.

And that was my re-introduction to my kitchen after two weeks off duty.

And what can I say; it was totally delicious.

And yet I’d rather still be on holiday, thank you very much.

p.s. I refreshed the limp and wobbly carrots and celery in very cold water for about 5-minutes, and then they were as good as new.



13 Comments Add yours

  1. Joanna says:

    A fine repast at Sedricksgaard indeed! Nutritious and healthy with tomato goodness. I added limp celery, assorted mushrooms and carrots to some frozen remains of a beef and ale stew last night and cut some circles out of a lump o frozen pastry that was similarly languishing in the frozen hinterlands and it was pretty good. Are you going to tell us about German delights, Wurst und Kohl and more… I do hope so xx

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      I love that sort of cooking because it’s a challenge, and always delightfully surprising when the end result is scrummy. And those lumps of frozen pastry are darned handy in a pinch, eh? I’ve done the same numerous times with puff pastry, which just about makes anything to pretty and edible.

      P. had bratwursts and sauerkraut one night that kept him ‘indisposed’ for the next 24-hours. We went off bratwursts quickly after that. I will write up some posts on other things that we ate that were both interesting and surprising.

  2. emilydev9 says:

    I would be very happy indeed to eat that! and nice trick about reviving the wobbly carrots; I have a lot of those as veg box man brings them every. single. week. and I feel guilty discouraging him.

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      Do you have an organic veg delivery? One of those Riverford or Abel & Cole type box deliveries? I’ve been so curious about the quality of their merchandise, so I’ve never bothered to test out of their weekly box. If however you have a friend who’s supplying you with veg from their garden … well, that’s a whole different kettle of fish ’cause that’s just Fabulous! As for refreshing limp veg, the cold water soak trick works every time, particularly with carrots and celery. Works nicely for fresh herbs, too. Parsley really benefits from a short soak in cold water. 😀

      Thanks for posting your comment, Emily! It’s lovely to see you here again.

      1. emilydev9 says:

        We have a local one called Cambridge Organic Food Co. Some of the merchandise is great, some is just so-so; the potatoes tend to go green quickly, and the onions get soft, but then I heard that in recent years onion crops have been problematic across the country because of weather conditions. I grow some of my own veg and herbs (this year did tomatoes, aubergines, cukes, a few potatoes, and now I am *finally* harvesting some proper cos leaves). Our next-door neighbours have fabulous stuff in their garden but haven’t really shared it, though they have some really nice brambles hanging into our garden that we don’t let go to waste! 😉

        1. Misk Cooks says:

          Potatoes go green when exposed to sunlight, so you’d think that Cambridge Organic would store them better to prolong use. We always grow tomatoes, cucumbers, chilli peppers, huge pots of herbs in a sun-trap on the patio, and then late seeding for leeks and a few seed potatoes. I’ve wanted to plant some potatoes in the greenhouse for new spuds at Christmas but I’ve not done it yet.

          I quit growing lettuces because the slugs eat them. My garden is organic so I won’t use anything except barrier-methods or beer traps for the slugs. Both are useless, to be honest. I reckon some of successful organic gardening is down to knowing when to cut your losses. 🙂

          1. emilydev9 says:

            Ooh do you think there’s still time to plant spuds for Christmas? What kinds are good? I would be happy to do that… The greenhouse has been good at keeping snails off my stuff. (I do organic, too, though with some bottled plant food.)

            1. Misk Cooks says:

              You need an early cropping variety. Check at your local garden centre, and ask what they have in stock. You might also be able to order them online. Just make sure that they are seed potatoes and early cropping. You put them into a potato barrel, or cylindrical barrel, and then keep adding soil as the tops sprouts and shoot off foliage. Cover them right up with soil, and then they’ll reappear again, setting spuds under the layer of soil.

            2. Misk Cooks says:

              Best varieties and tips for growing in pots or greenhouse:
              Early potatoes do better in pots or barrels, so buy varieties such as ‘Mimi’ (a white salad potato) or ‘Amandine’ or ‘Charlotte’ that thrive in small spaces. And give your potatoes plants extra water as the soil in pots dries out more quickly. Dry soil means tiny spuds! Cover the plants with a cloche from late September onwards to keep the frost off them if the greenhouse is not heated and, although they’ll grow more slowly than usual, you should get a crop ready in December.

  3. ceciliag says:

    this is exactly how i cook because i am a terrible shopper, I would have loved your soup! c

    1. Misk Cooks says:

      If I had my way, I’d eat soup twice a day. Mmmmmmm, soup. 🙂 When my husband is away on business I often cook up a big pot of soup that lasts for days. In my opinion, soup just improves day after day after day. And now that I’m hooked on baking sourdough bread, it’s homemade soup and bread served up on most weekends. I love that autumn is here because it means the beginning of soup-season! Not much on chilled soups though. Just doesn’t seem right to me.

      I’m not a particularly happy shopper either. Lucky for me, my husband loves grocery shopping so I make a list of essentials and he picks out the extra goodies in the produce shelves.

  4. Lovely looking soup. I also like the challenge of trying to make something out of a few flaccid vegetables.
    Glad you had a wonderful holiday.

  5. Misk Cooks says:

    I can’t wait for the bite of frost to chill the air so I can start making hot, steamy, spicy soups again. Today is not a good day for it though. Temperature due to hit 29c, and it could rise higher during the weekend. I find this sort of heat very difficult – can’t cope with heat anymore like I used to. I just sweat and get very grumpy. LOL!

    Please pass the iced tea….. (pant, pant)

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