Soup Making: Round 1

Ah, the start of a new year. After 2 months of thinking about this whole idea, today I got to actually make my first soup that “counts”. I know it was a day early, but I had a 5 day weekend and those don’t come along all that often. Gotta take your kitchen time where you can get it. Here’s how the day broke down:

The Plan:

There are 15 recipes in the January section of the cookbook*, so I decided to start by making the first 4:

  • Saint Basil Soup (Feast Day: January 2nd)
  • Chickpea Soup a la Provencale
  • Mushroom Soup a la Marie-Louise
  • Caldo Verde (Portuguese Cabbage Soup)

The Drink:

Since I was already getting champagne for New Year’s, I decided to make a drink called the “Godly Prosperity” to sip on while I cooked**. It’s a champagne cocktail a little like a French 75, but with Goldschlager instead of gin and syrup. My sister called it a hangover in a glass, but it was actually quite good and not that strong. With Goldschlager, as with most things, the dose makes the poison. I was excited because I got to bust out my favorite martini glasses which were supposed to show off the gold flecks, but utterly didn’t. Ah well, it still looked okay:

This cocktail is for New Year’s Eve, which is also the Feast Day of Saint Sylvester, the 33rd Pope. He’s known for being the first pope to preside entirely over a time of peace for the church (the Edict of Milan which legalized Christianity occurred in 313, he became Pope in 314). The Council of Nicea happened under his watch, as did the construction of some of the most well know cathedrals, including the original St Peter’s Basilica and the mother church, the Archbasilica of St John Lateran. Good glory imagine having that as a legacy.

St Sylvester’s Day is celebrated in countries like Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Belgium, and Brazil. Switzerland even has a Silvesterklaus, or a bunch of guys dressed up in costumes made out of forest materials. This looks like my brothers after they’ve used the woodchipper.

Anyway, the drink was good, two thumbs up.

The Soups:

Okay, first things first. When I went to make the shopping list for this week, I realized that Brother Victor uses a lot of olive oil in his soups. Like half a cup in one recipe. For someone who’s used to diet food “you can just spritz the pan with cooking spray”, this seemed insane to me. However, it did occur to me that it would give a little extra weight to the soups, so I decided to go for it. To accomplish this, I decided to get one of those one gallon jugs of olive oil. I’m marking the occasion so I can figure out how long it lasts.

I put it in my picture of my finished product just to commemorate the event:

 It’s like a soup tasting flight.

While none of the techniques used were overly difficult, I did learn two key things about soup making:

  1. Salting the soup is an art, and should not be undertaken when one is distracted.
  2. If you are going to make a blended soup, for the love of all that is holy, remove the bay leaves first.

Oops.

Other than that, the soups turned out well! I supposed it’s good I feel that way, as I now have 45 cups of soup in my fridge, not including what I ate for lunch while cooking and used to take the photos. Guess what I’m eating with/for every meal this week!

I’ll talk more about the Saint Basil’s Soup on January 2nd, but I was surprised to find out that *spoiler alert* this contains no basil. Unfortunately, it’s also the one I oversalted a bit. I added some salt, got distracted by my dog, and failed to mix in the salt before I tasted again. It’s not horrible, but it’s a bit more than I like. Interestingly, it’s almost identical to the Mushroom Soup a la Marie-Louise. The only difference is that the Mushroom soup has more oil and less water, and has thyme and bay leaf as spices. Otherwise, identical.

The Chickpea Soup a la Provencale was probably my favorite (aside from the bay leaf incident) as I happen to love blended soups. With spinach and chickpeas, this is the kind of soup that just makes you feel healthy and virtuous just for eating it.

Finally, the Caldo Verde. This is a Portuguese soup so famous it has it’s own Wikipedia page and a record label named after it.  Literally known as “green soup”, I noticed that mine was not particularly green and that all the recipes I Googled informed me that I should have made it with collard greens or kale. I was wondering if Brother Victor got this wrong, when the Williams Sonoma recipe informed me that Portuguese cabbage is much darker green than our green cabbage, and also very hard to find. Ah.

Most versions of this soup online have sausage or other meat in it, but Brother Victor’s is vegetarian. Monastic orders based on the rules of St Benedict have a history of vegetarianism, since Chapter 39 in the rules contains guidance against eating most animals: “Let everyone, except the sick who are very weak, abstain entirely from eating the meat of four-footed animals”. The only meat found in this cookbook is fish.

I figured I’d wrap up with a general sense of the cost, while noting any special items. I had some potatoes, celery, bouillon and the herbs already in my kitchen, so the cost excludes those things. I’ll add the cost as I have to replace items.

Total cost: $40.43, $19.99 of which was for the one gallon of olive oil.
Total soup: 47 cups or so, 20-22 servings based on cookbook estimates

*Page 6-9 of  12 Months of Monastery Soups
**Page 381 of Drinking With the Saints

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