This is the second in the series of Spring to Summer recipes from Phoebe Gale, my lovely, talented daughter who has just returned from some serious walking in Portugal and Spain! Over to you Phoebe..
This in-between spring weather has left me indecisive about what to cook! I’ve been hosting in my garden and enjoying spring salads, with lots of fresh herbs, soft boiled eggs, and new green vegetables. On the other hand, it’s still been cold, and the rain has been falling too, so I’ve been craving nourishment.
Camino De Santiago
Over the last few weeks, I walked part of the Camino, a pilgrimage that has routes from across Europe, to Santiago de Compostela. A few years ago I joined a friend for a week of walking and we decided to go again, walking this time from Porto to Santiago. We had lots of sunny days and lots of rain – quite like the weather in the UK. The whole time I found myself craving food that was fresh and spring-like whilst also nourishing and comforting. Delicious Pastel de Natas, and many bananas, fuelled us on our route, with two defining meals that became staples of our trip, in a day that often revolved around food!
Walking each day, through tiny villages, in the middle of sprawling countryside, we would try to find somewhere to stop for lunch. The little cafés-come-shops-come-living rooms that we frequently stopped in were a thing of beauty and joy for me. These places, run by some of the most amazing, and at the time, it felt like life-saving women, were extremely simple, yet provided everything we needed.
There was often a small shop area to one side selling bread, cheese, jarred beans (we will come back to these), a few fruits and vegetables, biscuits, and cold drinks. On the other side was a café area, varying in size and formality, with some housing the whole family eating their lunch. It often felt much more like their living room! In the middle of each space was a very small kitchen area, with a bar, a tiny hob, a microwave and always a coffee machine. The menu was short, offering what was always described as ‘Snacks’, and pretty much always consisted of an omelette sandwich.
This simple meal kept us going through many a rainy day, and up some steep hills! Whilst I won’t give you a recipe for an omelette sandwich, I wanted to celebrate this simple, nutritious snack, which I feel provides the perfect comfort in these in-between months.
Delicious Soup - Food For the Soul
For our evening meal, there was one meal that we returned to, something I have cooked at home for many years and find I can eat at most times of the year. It’s a sort of version of a minestrone soup. Its beauty lies in its complete adaptability. The basic premise is some sort of allium, one or more green veggies, one jar of beans or lentils, a handful of pasta or potato (or both) and some stock. At home, I would make my own stock, but while walking we used stock cubes which were perfect.
With this simple recipe in mind, when we came across a shop we would be sure to pick up some of these ingredients. The shops were few and far between which often meant that we would be carrying leeks tied onto the back of our bags or a jar of beans stuck in our water bottle carrier for many miles. Our bottle of olive oil came with us the full 300km, much to the amusement of many of our other pilgrims! There is something about the combination of broth with beans, potato, and pasta that makes me feel at home; it fills me up and it doesn’t cost much!
Back to the jarred beans - the texture and flavour are much better than the tinned in my opinion, but use whatever is available to you. For me, this soup is a soup for any time, we had it on sunny days (up the veggies, lower the pulses/carbs) and on the rainiest days. I also ate it day after day once I had returned home full of flu. I hope my love for this super adaptable, brothy goodness shines through. Here's my recipe..
Soup for Any Day
Serves 2 (When you’ve been walking all day)
For the Soup
- A couple tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 onion/leek and/or a few garlic cloves (if you’ve made your own stock and think it has enough punch of these flavours you can leave these out)
- 1 jar, or tin, of beans or lentils including their liquid
- 2 handfuls of pasta (any small shapes work well, or broken spaghetti or lasagne is also great)
- 1 diced potato
- 1 stock cube, plus 750ml of water, or 750ml of homemade stock (recipe below)
- 2 big handful of greens, kale, courgette, cavolo nero or just lots of leek if that’s all you have
- Parmesan, any fresh green herbs and a squeeze of lemon to serve (if you have them)
For the Stock
- 1 onion, peeled and halved
- 1 bulb of garlic, cut across the middle, don’t bother to peel
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- A few sticks of celery, roughly chopped
- 10 pepper corns
- 2/3 parmesan rinds
- A handful of mixed aromatics, parsley stalks, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, etc.
- A good few pinches of salt
- Anything else you have in the fridge that needs using up, broccoli stalks, peelings, etc.
- Make the stock. Put all the ingredients into a large pot and cover with 2 litres of water, or more if you have space for it. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour. Leave to cool and strain. If you want a clearer stock, you can sieve it through a tea towel, but I tend not to bother.
- For the soup, heat the olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Finely slice the onion or leek (wash the leek well if using), and fry over a low heat until starting to soften. Slice the garlic thinly and add to the pan, continue cooking until the alliums are soft and jammy. Add the rest of the ingredients, bar the greens, and simmer on a low heat until the potato and pasta are al dente. In the meantime, finely shred, or slice your greens, add them to the pot with the nearly cooked potato and pasta and put the lid on – this will help everything cook evenly. This is the only real bit of skill here, ensuring that the potato and pasta don’t overcook and that the green veg are cooked but still fresh and have bite. Depending on how thick or thin you like the soup, you can add more stock at this point to create more broth.
- Check the seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed, this will depend largely on your stock. Spoon into a deep bowl, then top with finely grated parmesan, chopped herbs and a squeeze of lemon.
Thanks Phoebe, a delicious spring staple, which can be modified to be eaten at anytime of the year. I'm looking forward to the next recipe in your series of Spring Into Summer.
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