Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Fussy food, and ABC Soup



The clocks turned back a day ago. And just to make sure we all realise, it turned into winter overnight. The cold drops of rain (snow for those up north, yucks) have been falling, and the icy winds have ganged up with the rain clouds by beating my useless umbrella up so that I get home wet, cold and tired. And hungry. It's on nights like this when I dream of getting into the hot shower for a full hour, and coming out to piping hot noodle soup, or a comforting bowl of congee. In my dream, that soup or congee would be prepared lovingly by my mum (or a cute boy. or any other person but me, really), so I need only worry about getting into my thickest jumpers and pyjamas bottoms. Alas, the three years here have taught me that soup will not magically appear on my table however tight I shut my eyes and cross my fingers. It will, and can appear after my shower, if I muster enough energy to do five minutes worth of chopping.

Five minutes is eally all it takes for homecooked magic. And I don't even mean five minutes of crazy chinese wokking or Jamie Oliver-style triple tasking or working an overpriced machine. I get weird stares from my friends when I say I cook every day, but I can't imagine not. I know not everyone sees the fun in peeling onions and inhaling steam from the pot. But even if you cook for the sake of sustenance, it doesn't really take much to deliver good food into your belly.


Perhaps the most basic soup that I loved as a child, and that I first dared to cook after I first moved to London, is the ABC soup. It's not a creative acronym, and I didn't make the name up. Mums called it ABC soup because it's as simple as ABC; simple equipment, simple skills, and simple ingredients you can find no matter which side of the pond you dwell. Potatoes, onions, carrots and pork ribs, all in a pot for a couple of hours, done. Yet the soup is lovely and hearty, the broth naturally sweet from the vegetables and pork. I've now taken to calling all soups that are made in that same fashion ABC soup. What I used here is a mix of winter roots that I picked up from the farmer's market that day, and all in all there are more than a few changes so I don't know if you would still call it the same thing, but it's just as unfussy as ABC soup should be.

ABC WINTER ROOTS SOUP
makes enough to feed yourself at least twice, depending on how hungry
Ingredients
2 large carrots
1 medium turnip
1 large onion
1/2 a medium celeriac
1/2 a medium swede
4 cups of homemade Asian stock*
1 tbsp butter from happy cows
2 tbsp white (shiro) miso
lots of freshly ground white pepper
chopped fresh parsley and coriander

Method
1. Wash, peel and chop all the vegetables up into rough large chunks, no need for geometric accuracy.
2. Put all the vegetables into a pot with the stock and bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer for the length of your shower i.e. 30 minutes.
3. Remove from heat. Dissolve miso in a bit of the broth and then stir in evenly. Also stir in the butter. (Because butter makes everything better. And because miso and butter together are delicious, if you have not yet been enlightened.)
4. Finish with a generous sprinkle of pepper and herbs. Eat.



The root vegetables are all sweet but in different ways, so you get different layers of flavours as they cook; the nuttiness and fragrance of celery from the celeriac, the slight pepperiness from the turnip, the earthiness from the swede, and the mellow sweetness from the carrot. I like that they are all left in huge rustic chunks because then you get to appreciate the different textures, and of course, it means no ninja knife skills or blender is needed.

You could also add rainbow chard or some other seasonal greens towards the end, but then you would have to stagger the timing, and this soup is about bunging it all in at the same time, save for my final seasoning and sprinkling of herbs. *Because this was a soup that that I wanted right out of the shower, I used stock instead of pork ribs, although if you went for water on this one, I assure you the soup does not lack in flavour, especially if you do as I did, stirring in a mild miso at the end for some shortcut creamy salty umami.

But again, this is ABC soup; it's meant to be as simple as you like and if you've only got salt and pepper and nothing else in your kitchen cupboard, so be it. No fuss.

47 comments:

  1. I'm not a cute boy (rather a distinguished older gentleman), but for you I wish one will come along with his cooking utensils in hand. Your soup today is especially apt as we endure Hurricane Sandy here on the east coast.

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  2. Sorry, my dear, but the "prove you're not a robot" is annoying and unnecessary. I will continue to read your posts but will not comment.

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    1. Sorry I don't know how to get rid of it! It's annoying I know! Well dear distinguished older gentleman, stay safe and take care x

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    2. Settings › Posts and comments -> Show word verification (Turn this OFF)

      BTW, no pork ribs in ABC soup?

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    3. oh great thanks! it's not really ABC soup, but I call all soups made in that same fashion ABC :)

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  3. This is also the first soup I used to cook after moving to uk. It is sweet and nutritious with easily available ingredients

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    1. Yes, it's the one of those failsafe soups that can't go wrong (:

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  4. I'm like you, I can't imagine a day without cooking (unless I am on holiday when I am quite happy to be pampered for a few days). And some friends do think I am a bit crazy for liking the rhythm of the kitchen - the meditative chopping, some bicep-curling stirring, the pleasure of a perfectly risen cake. But the fact others can appreciate and be sustained with what you like to do, and are happy to do, is fantastic. Super, simple, homey soup, like this ABC one (love the graphic) makes everyone happy.

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    1. I guess that's why we're all here blogging about food (: It makes me happy, and it also makes my day to read about other people similarly loving their time in the kitchen.

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  5. simple pleasures and I couldn't agree more, cooking is damn easy and when it's as good as this, why not cook every day? x

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    1. You just summed up my whole post (:

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  6. The so-called "Ready Meals" are simply marketing hype. On the few occasions when I have tried (endured?) one, I found it so unsatisfying that I had to cook some proper food AS WELL! Cooking is very therapeutic too - you feel better even before eating.

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    1. Exactly! In the time it takes to heat up a ready meal, you could probably get a proper one done.

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  7. Lovely, hearty autumn soup. I bet it warms one's body and soul too! When cold days come I buy whole chicken much more often than during other seasons because of the soups. I love having a big amount of chicken stock and throw into it whatever I have in the fridge. Somehow such casual soups are never disappointing.
    By the way, I'm very happy to prove I'm not a robot :-)

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    1. Cheers, sissi (:

      I don't really get whole chickens, but I often just get the carcasses and random bones for free to make soup. I think they're a must-have in winter.

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  8. I saw the note from Chef and Sommelier about turning off the word verification. Hope you can do that.

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  9. Mmm...this looks amazing. We are just getting some nippy weather here in FL but should be back ion the 80s by the weekend, but I still like the comfort of soup. I better make some tonight while it's chilly. I'm not looking forward to the clocks turing back!

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  10. I make ABC soup quite often, easy and nutritious!

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  11. I turn into a soup person when I'm not well, since its warmth bring comfort beside makes me feel better, and at that time I'd like for someone to make it for me rather than me standing in the kitchen and make it. The quick to make soups are my favorite, as you explained, chop, boil, and eat :)
    The soup looks appetizing and the ingredients sure bring in awesome flavors!

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    1. Sometimes when I can bother, I will do the sweating of onions or blanching of bones blah, but when I'm tired and hungry, all I want is simple, quick food like this that still warms your tummy (:

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  12. Heh, I was thinking how lovely and warm and chunky the soup looked already and then I realised that you added the asian stock - I bet that really kicks it up a notch. It must turn it from flavours which I'm very familiar with... my mother used to make a very similar stew when I was a boy and really into a wonderfully complex soup rich in all those lovely spice flavours from the stock!

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    1. Yep it's a very weird mix of flavours because there's miso and asian stock, but at the same time there's all these butter and parsley, but then I think about it and realise, it's actually quite similar to the hokkaido style version of jap ramen, with a chicken broth that's flavoured with the use of miso, and topped with buttered corn. same sort of flavours going on here (:

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  13. Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best but I suspect that your Asian stock and white miso make this soup especially delicious! Looks like we're both in the soup mood today!

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    1. Yes, and the butter, weird as that may sound. Hurray for soup!

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  14. I could do with a bowl of this soup right now on such a cold and blustery day. I love anything involving winter root vegetables. It looks delicious :)

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  15. I am with you, cooking every day is just necessary if you want to eat and enjoy food at it's best and that is good for you. This soup is an example of that and I shall try your idea f finishing off with butter & miso. Great!

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    1. hi-5 laura (: yes try the butter and miso, it's a simple, quick way to add depth to the soup!

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  16. Haha, I read this and thought, whaa? Clocks turn back? And frantically changed my clock. Then I realized it's different everywhere and felt silly. I'm not doing that till the 4th :p
    But this looks fantastic! I love how colorful it is!

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    1. Hee hee sorry to have freaked you. But the clocks would have turned back by now for you too wouldn't it :( Ah well, it really is winter! Thanks!

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  17. TOTALLY MY FAVEEEEE... What I love about this soup is how it really varies from household to household, don't ya think? And that's a good thing. LOVE this too, especially on cold Wintery nights. Actually, funny thing about this soup. My friend loves mixing it with rice, topped with SLICED FRESH BANANAS. That girl crayyyyy. Nice one, Shu Han!

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  18. Simple and comforting soup like this is great! Keep warm!

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  19. Gosh, I could just jump into a bowl of that right now! Looks nourishing and a perfect pick me up for the colder temperatures. What's your favourite Congee?

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    1. Chicken, with an egg added right at the end, so when you stir it gets mixed into the congee. Yum.

      Got a turkey congee made form leftovers on my blog somewhere: http://mummyicancook.blogspot.com/2011/12/leftover-turkey-congee.html

      This was yum too!

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  20. Oh I have been in a soup kind of mood... this looks wonderful, though the French have the silly habit of blending their soups, I don't know if I'll be able to resist the compulsion... I definitely want to add the miso component at the end. Funny, a lot of people are surprised that I cook every day too, and I too can't get how one can miss ou on the fun of peeling and simple cooking. Thanks for this. Stay warm - sending you some Southern California rays...:-)

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    1. I know, I do like blended soups, but then only when accomapnied with a chunk of bread to mop up the soup, and I don't always have bread at home (horrors. I do always have rice though). And I kind of like having some form of texture in soups or it will feel too much liek baby food (Pablo not included. he eats like a gourmet!) Thanks, it has actually been sunnier these days ;)

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  21. yes, it is soup season finally and i must say, it is one of the main redeeming quality of autumn and winter. i love that your mom calls it an ABC soup for it's simplistic method and taste, sometimes that's all that is needed for warm up & stave off hunger.

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    1. I heard from another person lately, that it's also called ABC souo because it has all the essential vitamins, A,B and C. Love these random names!

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  22. I do love soup like this, with pieces, and a lovely warming stock. In this weather, perfect

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  23. Colder weather always makes me crave root based soups. Simple and comforting - this soup sounds just perfect.

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  24. my ABC soup is very simple if compare with your, next time i must add turnip if i can find the cheap turnip again, hehehe..

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  25. It's getting colder here in bcn, it's time for soup, for this soup!

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  26. thanks for sharing..

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  27. Waa... your ABC soup looks & sounds like 5 star gourmet soup! Mine is pretty simple but I would love to try your version ! My boys love ABC soup especially during the cold winter months!

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  28. I made this last night with fragrant ginger pork stock. Used swede, carrot, celery, onion and parsnip, plus added in a small handful of soup grains (lentils, pearl barley, split peas) and a few bits of chopped ham I had leftover from last week. Had no miso so I added dark soy at the end. It was simple, but perfection! Currently eating the leftovers for lunch.

    I've been binge reading your blog... I'm trying your recipe for egg noodles this weekend, and I have a gorgeous savoy cabbage in the fridge that I'm planning on making into your pork, ginger and water chestnut dumplings. Yummmmmmmm.

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    1. Wow thanks you so much Helen! I am well pleased to hear that you enjoy my recipes. Though to be honest, that soup you did was pretty much yours! You made it amazing! I'll have to try that myself, with ham and dark soy yum!

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