I am never happier than when I am in the kitchen. There is something about the private, gentle, routine of preparing myself food that I cherish above most other things. I know I’ve lost a little bit of control over things if cooking slips from my routine; I mean, not having the time to prepare yourself something nourishing and tasty is a sure sign that self care is not on your agenda, no? unfortunately, life has been a bit like that for me lately. I have been fulfilling both my job duties and that of a six foot yorkshireman with a beard at work, which is time consuming to say the least, and as a result my time at home has been divided roughly evenly into time in bed, time in the shower, and time chugging coffee while I hang out endless laundry.
But having lost my grandma has bought to mind something I read by Nigella Lawson on death, about how appetite is not only normal, but respectful in times of grieving. That eating and embracing life is a way to show that you respect the privileges that the departed can no longer enjoy. it’s something I always bear in mind when I lose somebody; because the temptation to get blind drunk and blot out my feelings gets pretty strong, and there has to be other ways to deal with things, is my thought. Cooking is one of the ways I have found most effective. I can remember making spinach and feta pie after my great grandma died while I was at university, I remember getting immersed in making a huge curry when I found out my grandpa had died from cancer, losing myself in grinding the spices. And so these past few days I’ve been in the kitchen, chopping and stirring and enjoying the quiet. It’s the cook’s pleasure to be able to lose oneself in the colour, texture and smells of the kitchen. and at times like this I want things that are unchallenging to cook (I have always favoured simplicity at the best of times), but deliver maximum comfort upon eating, and will feed me for a couple of days. so I settled on a recipe I made fairly routinely at university, a bastardized version of Caldo Verde, which is a Portugese peasant soup of cabbage and potatoes, flavoured with sausage or chorizo fried to give up a little of it’s oil and chucked in at the end. It seemed to go perfectly with the weather at the moment, which doesn’t seem to realize that it’s spring yet.
You Will Need:
2 cloves garlic
curly kale (I used one of those supermarket bags, and it is worth nothing that this recipe can be made with any robust leafy greans, but especially from the brassica family, so savoy cabbage is a good shout)
2-3 medium to large potatoes
cooking chorizo (you don’t need much, I used maybe 50g per bowl)
the zest of a lemon
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
probably about 700ml vegetable stock
olive oil, salt and pepper.
So it’s really easy. First, lightly crush the garlic with the blade of a knife, and sliver the onion into little half moons. heat the oil in a pan and let them slowly soften. while that’s happening, peel and dice the spuds. I leave mine quite chunky, so about 1 1/2 cm dice.
when the onions are nicely transparent, add the potatoes to the pan, toss to coat with the oil, and add salt and pepper. pour over the veggie stock, turn up the heat, and bring to the boil. cover and let simmer while the potatoes soften.
when the potatoes are almost tender, chuck in your sliced greens (mine were already sliced, seriously, finding kale out of those supermarket vac packs should not be such a tough ask in as middle class an area as Muswell Hill). heat a separate frying pan and dry fry your chorizo until it gives up some of it’s terracotta oil. turn the heat off the pan and sprinkle with the lemon zest and parsley, lightly tossing the ingredients together.
pour the soup into bowls and add the chorizo on top, adding the beads of oil from the pan. and there you have it; it’s not exactly going to win beauty contests (although there’s a lot to be said for the colours going on here) but it fills the belly and bolsters the soul.
I would feel no shame in serving bowls of this to a table of friends with a loaf of good bread (probably homemade, speaking of which I bought Dan Lepard’s The Home Made Loaf yesterday. That’s right man, another bread book to add to my collection). This is probably because I have never stood on ceremony when entertaining, but also because it’s a big heartwarmer of a dish, and the balance of flavours is perfect. It’s essentially an exercise in making a little go a long way, and that feeling of being able to conjure up plenty from almost nothing is satisfying in it’s own right.
It’s also worth nothing that this recipe will bear up quite well to repeat servings, too. just heat up a portion and fry up a new batch of chorizo. it’s almost better on the second day when the potatoes have had time to cloud the broth and lending it some starchy thickness. I am also going to add a disclaimer here that I do cook and eat things other than soup; it’s just that lately I seem to be making it a lot, as it’s comforting, simple, and good for you.