Dog Soup

I guess it settles THAT old argument

Sweet Spanish condiments

At least he/she/it isn't train spotting...

Chaser Otharcharr

Dublin Lawyer bisque: for Irishmen who managed to pass the bar

“The lawyer and the coroner grow fat on the quarrels of fools.” – Irish proverb.


Ireland’s history has literally been marked by Feast and Famine. The native Celts were a proud, scholarly people. After being converted to Christianity by St Patrick, their monasteries became centres of learning and repositories of reproduced manuscripts containing much of the Western World’s collective knowledge. During the Dark Ages the Irish were the custodians of European civilisation. Then came the Normans, followed by the English, and the Irish were systematically turned into a nation of ignorant paupers via land grabs and the denial of access to education, capital and the franchise. After centuries of bitter struggle they regained independence, and today the Republic of Ireland is a prosperous country with a work force geared for the knowledge economy. Despite their steady progress, negative stereotypes still abound; mainly among Anglo-Saxons. The Irish are stupid, drunkards, superstitious, irrational and violent. Most of these notions date back to the era of subjugation to the English, whose cruel rule caused many of Ireland’s social ills.

The foodstuff most closely associated with Ireland (after Guiness) is the potato, which was brought to Europe in the late 16th Century and soon thereafter found its way to Ireland. Its arrival has been hailed as the “greatest occurrence” by some, and condemned as the “worst calamity” by many. It was positive in the sense that it provided a cheap, durable source of starch for sharecroppers and their families, but a tragedy in the making because just about the entire nation became dependent on it. When a fungal disease caused five successive potato harvests to fail in the late 1840s, it resulted in An Gorta Mór (Gaelic for The Great Famine). During the famine, about one million people died and a million more emigrated to America and Australasia, causing the island's population to fall by between 20% - 25%.

Grinding poverty and limited exposure to the rest of the world resulted in Irish cooking becoming dull and repetitive, with the potato remaining a staple. A good plain meal of meat, vegetables and potatoes became the symbol of post-famine Ireland. During the height of British oppression, the only Irishmen and –women who lived middle-class lives were artisans and people of letters: clergy, doctors, lawyers, academics, authors, poets and actors. Many of them also played leading roles in the fight for civil rights and home rule. The small Irish bourgeois class was envied its (relatively) luxurious lifestyle, personified by the eating of treats like lobster, salmon and caviar. A good example of wry working-class humour was the renaming of an ancient dish from “Drunken Lobster” to “Dublin Lawyer”. Irish chefs insist that it is only authentic when made with real Irish whiskey…


Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves 4

Guess what?


500g Cooked lobster or crayfish meat

4 Cups thick cream

2 Cups hot cooked white rice

1 ½ Cups button or Portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced

½ Cup scallions, thinly sliced

½ Cup unsalted butter, softened

¼ Cup Irish whiskey (I recommended Jameson)

2 Tsp. paprika

1 Tsp. Cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste


  • Combine the softened butter, Cayenne pepper and paprika in a small mixing bowl.
  • Melt the spiced butter in a large deep saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • Add the mushrooms, scallions and lobster meat.
  • Sauté until the mushrooms are golden, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, and season the contents with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Carefully add the whiskey and stir it in.
  • Return the pan to the heat and cook until the whiskey has almost completely evaporated.
  • Add the cream and reduce until thickened.
  • Serve in large bowls over the hot rice.


“We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English.” - Winston Churchill.


Scotch Broth: nourishing the brave of heart

“Scotch beef, lamb, salmon and shellfish are recognised the world over for their excellence and Scottish provenance. People recognise the Scottish brand, and they associate the country with quality food and drink.”- Nicola Sturgeon.


If I were to use female looks as a metaphor for the cuisines of the Old World, French food would be beautiful, Italian buxom, Spanish sultry, German heavy-set, English plain and Scottish homely. Authentic Scottish food isn't “fancy”, but it's wholesome, filling, generally easy to prepare and surprisingly tasty when you realize that – apart from salt and pepper - spices aren't commonly used. As mainly rural people in a land with a harsh climate, Scots ate stews, broths, soups, fish bakes and porridge regularly - meals that kept them warm and gave them the energy they needed. The stodgy nature of many dishes helped to keep stomachs full for a long time too; “food that'll stick to your ribs".

The key ingredients of Scots cooking are functions of both the blend of races that make up the ancestors of todays' Scots and Scotlands' landscape. The hunter-gatherer Picts left a lasting legacy in Scotland’s passion for hunting and fishing, and the Vikings who raided – and eventually settled – in the Middle Ages brought with them the ancestors of today’s Aberdeen Angus cattle. Scotland is a small country, but it has an abundance of water in the form of lochs (lakes), rivers and streams. It also has fertile soil, regular rainfall and a relatively temperate climate for its high latitude. So, to complement the abundant meat, venison and fish there were cereals like oats and barley and root vegetables and soft fruits to sustain the Scots.

The hearty traditional Scottish cuisine of old is becoming rare. Scotland now boasts plenty of fine dining restaurants featuring upgraded” versions of old-style Scottish food, plus a huge variety of other cuisines. One of the classic dishes still made and served with pride is Scotch broth. It’s not a pretty dish; Scots regard a broth that looks too colourful, too neatly and finely diced and (heaven forbid) too thin with deep suspicion. There are some peculiarly Scots principles: the lamb should never be browned before stewing it, the meat is cooked in salted water (not stock) and the cooking process should be ultra-slow. In fact, many chefs prefer to use an oven rather than a stove-top pot for the majority of the cooking time. Last but not least, a true Scotch broth is always made with breast of lamb, never with neck, knuckles or backstrap.


Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 2 hours

Serves 6.

Tastes best accompanied by a red Bordeaux or Cape blend


1kg Breast of lamb, chopped into 4 pieces by the butcher

350g Leeks, trimmed and sliced

300g Carrots, peeled and diced

250g Cabbage, chopped

250g Potatoes, peeled and diced

250g Swede or parsnip, peeled and thinly sliced

50g Pearl barley

2½L water

2 Bay leaves

1 Medium onion, peeled and stuck with 5 cloves

½ Cup moss parsley, stalks removed and the leaves finely chopped

1 Tbsp. sea salt flakes (e.g. Maldon salt or Fleur de Sel)

White pepper to taste


  • Place the lamb in a large pot and cover with the water.
  • Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat.
  • When scum starts forming, scoop it off using a large spoon.
  • Simmer the lamb for 30 minutes, continuing to remove any further scum which appears.
  • Add all the other ingredients except the barley and parsley.
  • Bring back to a simmer, again removing any more scum from the vegetables.
  • Cook, barely simmering, for 1 hour, or until the meat is very tender.
  • Carefully lift out the pieces of lamb with tongs and put on to a plate to cool.
  • Add the barley to the broth, stir in, and allow it to continue simmering.
  • Once the lamb is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones then roughly chop it. Discard the bones.
  • Return the meat to the pot, stir in well and continue to cook until the barley is tender.
  • Once the soup has thickened, stir in the parsley.
  • Serve piping hot.


“‘The soup is Potage de Mouton a l'Ecossaise,’ said the butler. ‘Will you take some potage, Miss ah--Miss Blunt?’ asked Mr. Crawley. ‘Capital Scotch broth, my dear,’ said Sir Pitt, ‘though they call it by a French name.’” – William Makepeace Thackeray, “Vanity Fair”.


Smoky Tomato Soup: otra hija del tomate...

 "To be honest, I'd be the last person who should be doling out gardening advice. I don't have the patience for growing things. Yes, I realize there's nothing quite as satisfying as eating food that you've pulled up from the ground and that's why, at the height of the planting season, I bury cans of tomato soup in my backyard and dig them up in late spring." - Ellen DeGeneres.


For many years I only ate tomato soup in self-defence. The reason for my aversion to tomatoes was ironic: as a toddler I was besotted with them and hoovered up anything that contained tomato. In primary school I hit the wall. I simply could no longer abide either the taste or the smell of tomatoes in any shape or form. There were other, unintended, consequences too – this aversion kept me from eating and cooking pasta until my thirties!

Even though I made it back from the dark side, my appreciation of tomatoes is still conditional. I will probably never go gaga over raw tomato again, and I prefer dishes where tomato is not a solo act. In concert with other vegetables and pulses or turbo-charged with herbs, chilli or paprika I adore them. Consequently, two of my all-time favourite soups are tomato-based: Indian tamator shorba and Spanish sopa de tomate picante. The latter can either be given a smoky character by smoking the tomatoes in a stovetop smoker, or be infused with a hint of smoke through the addition of pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika).

I prefer the latter option, as it is more subtle, and the degree of smokiness can be easily controlled. To me, the best accompaniment to this simple yet luscious soup is crunchy toasted bread and sharp Gruyère cheese.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a Merlot or Tempranillo


1.5kg Ripe plum tomatoes, quartered

75g Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated

8 Thin (6mm thick) baguette slices

2 Large garlic cloves, crushed

1 Large onion, diced

1 Thyme sprig plus extra for garnish

1 Bay leaf

½ Cup water

¼ Cup thick cream

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 Tsp. sweet smoked paprika

Coarse sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper


  • Melt the butter in a soup pot with the olive oil.
  • Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the paprika and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Add the tomatoes, water, thyme sprig and bay leaf.
  • Season with salt and pepper and bring the mixture to the boil.
  • Reduce the heat to moderate, cover the pot and simmer until the tomatoes break down, about 15 minutes.
  • As soon as you cover the pot, pre-heat the grill in your oven.
  • When the tomatoes are done, discard the thyme sprig and bay leaf.
  • Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth.
  • Strain the soup back into the pot, pressing on the solids to extract as much soup as possible.
  • Stir the cream into the soup and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm, but below the simmering point.
  • Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet.
  • Grill 15cm from the heat until lightly toasted on both sides, about 2 minutes total.
  • Top the toasts with the Gruyère and grill until the cheese is bubbly.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with the toast on the side.


"When trying to find the words to tell her how much I loved her, I stumbled across the ingredients for grilled cheese sandwiches. That's when I realized she was the melted cheese to my toast. And the guy she's currently seeing, the guy she left me for, well, I guess he is the tomato soup." - Jarod Kintz.


Egg Drop Soup: where the chicken comes first

"My second best idea after the theory of relativity was to boil an egg while cooking soup in order to produce a soft-boiled egg without having an extra pot to wash." – Albert Einstein (allegedly).


Egg drop soup (dànhuātāng; literally "egg flower soup") is a Chinese soup consisting of wispy beaten eggs in a chicken broth. It is extremely quick and easy to make, but don’t let this fool you: it is a supreme comfort food. In its simplest form, the only ingredients needed are the chicken broth, eggs and scallions (spring onion), but obviously there is scope for extra ingredients at the cook’s discretion. For example, in China ginger is added when preparing the soup for someone who is ill, since ginger is a proven cold and ‘flu remedy.

Some people like the broth for egg drop soup to be quite bland so the flavor of the egg can really stand out. I don’t subscribe to that notion; to me the overall effect is enhanced by the addition of good chicken broth. Many restaurants serve thickened egg drop soup, using corn or potato starch to give it more body. Using potato starch will deliver a clearer soup while corn flour/cornstarch will produce a cloudier-looking, but still delicious, soup. Another tweak of the basic recipe is the addition of tofu, but that is a non-starter in my kitchen. To me, the classical ingredients are sacrosanct – the only variations allowable should be in the seasoning.


Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by sake or Vicks Medinite (!)


1.5L Chicken stock (preferably a homemade broth)

3 Eggs, lightly beaten

2 Scallions, finely chopped

¼ Cup corn starch, mixed with ½ cup water

1 Tsp. fresh ginger, minced

½ Tsp. salt

½ Tsp. white pepper

A pinch of white sugar

Salt and white pepper for seasoning


  • Reserve ¾ cup of chicken broth, and pour the rest into a large saucepan.
  • Stir the ginger, scallion, sugar, salt and pepper into the broth in the saucepan, and bring to the boil.
  • Whisk together the remaining broth and cornstarch in a cup or small bowl until smooth. Set aside.
  • Whisk the eggs briskly one final time using a fork.
  • Drizzle the egg, a little at a time, from the fork into the boiling broth mixture. The egg should cook immediately.
  • Once all the egg has been added, stir in the corn starch mixture gradually until the soup is the desired consistency.
  • Taste the soup, and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  • Serve piping hot.


“He who eats the egg forgoes the future chicken soup.” – Igbo proverb.


Caldillo de Perro: not man's best friend...

“From all the fish in the pot you can only make one soup.” - Malagasy Proverb.


If somebody offered you dog soup, you may be forgiven for assuming that it is a Korean or Chinese dish. In fact, I am fairly sure that man’s best friend does feature on some menus in the Orient. Fortunately, caldillo de perro (literally "dog soup"), is a Spanish seafood soup popular in Andalusia. The dish is said to be named after "El Perro", the nickname of a legendary shipboard cook in the ancient city of Cádiz, which is also known as La Tacita de Plata, or “Little Silver Cup.” This nickname, in turn, comes from the fact that Cádiz, which sits on a cup-shaped bay, turns silvery in the setting sun.

This unusual soup can best be described as “Andalusia in a bowl”. It combines fresh fish from the Atlantic with the fruits of the soil: garlic, olive oil, lemons and oranges. In the fishing communities of its home region it is usually served hot and freshly made. Whenever possible, the fish used is the succulent merluza (hake), but other white fish like sea bass, haddock or whiting are also used. The soup is traditionally cooked in a clay pot, and a dash of tart orange juice added right at the end to give the dish its unique flavor. Outside Andalusia, it is unusual to find bitter orange in any recipe, mainly because the trees are planted primarily in this part of Spain.

If you cannot find Valencia or marmalade oranges in your local fresh produce market, a mixture of regular orange juice and lemon juice is a good approximation.


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 6 as a first course

Serves best with a chilled unwooded Chardonnay


750g Hake, gurnard, or kob fillets, cut into small pieces 

1.75L Fish stock

2 Sprigs Italian parsley, plus 2 tbsp. extra chopped for garnish 

1 Ripe tomato, cored and halved 

1 Large onion, coarsely chopped 

1 Large garlic cloves, peeled and halved 

1 Slice day-old baguette or rusticate, soaked in water to cover and squeezed dry 

Juice of 1 bitter orange, or of ½ lemon and ½ regular orange

Zest of 1 bitter orange, or of ½ lemon and ½ regular orange, cut into wide strips 

½ Green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped 

A pinch of saffron threads or ½ tsp. turmeric

Salt and white pepper to taste


  • Combine the fish stock, zest, tomato, onion, bell pepper, and parsley in a stock pot and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.
  • Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve placed over another saucepan.
  • Discard the orange zest and parsley and set the vegetables aside.
  • Roast the garlic over high heat in a small pan, turning as needed, for 3 minutes, or until colored on all sides. Remove from the heat.
  • Combine ½ cup of the reserved stock with the reserved tomato, onion, bell pepper, garlic; bread and saffron in a blender or food processor.
  • Process until a smooth purée forms.
  • Add the purée to the remaining stock, mix well, place over medium heat, and bring to a simmer.
  • Season the fish pieces with salt and pepper and add to the pan.
  • Decrease the heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the fish turns opaque.
  • Remove from the heat, add the orange juice, stir gently, and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Ladle into warmed bowls, sprinkle with the chopped parsley, and serve.


"It's easier to turn an aquarium into fish soup than to turn fish soup into an aquarium." – Russian proverb.


Easter is a major celebration in Greece

A Magyar on his high horses

I just need a bowl of Rassolnik & I'll be fine

Pablo Neruda learning from the sea

I'd rather dance with the cows till you come home

Duck Soup: for Marxists of the Groucho school

“I danced before Napoleon. No, Napoleon danced before me. As a matter of fact, he danced 200 years before me.” – Rufus T Firefly (Groucho Marx) in “Duck Soup”.


One of the funniest movies ever made was the 1933 comedy “Duck Soup”, starring the four Marx brothers, Groucho, Harpo, Zeppo and Chico. Compared to the Marx Brothers' previous films, Duck Soup was not a great success at the box office. While critics of Duck Soup felt it did not quite meet the standards of its predecessors, critical opinion has evolved and the film has since achieved the status of a classic. It is now widely considered a comedy masterpiece and the Marx Brothers' finest film.

When I first saw the movie as a child, I not only enjoyed every moment but decided there and then that I would one day find out what duck soup really tasted like. My dream would take a long time to come to fruition, as duck was as rare as hen’s teeth on the menus of rural middle-class Afrikaners in the Sixties and Seventies. I finally made my first duck soup more than 30 years later, but it was well worth the wait. The following recipe is a real winner for people who need a break from chicken soup, but still like vegetable-and-poultry soups. When you buy a duck for a special occasion, it is usually to feed only two people, and you often end up with a surprising amount of meat left hidden on the carcass. If so, be a good Marxist and make duck soup!


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 3 hours

Serves 8

Tastes best accompanied by a Malbec or Merlot


1 Cooked duck carcass

350g Tinned Italian tomatoes, chopped

3 Celery stalks, chopped

3 Garlic cloves, crushed

2 Scallions, thinly sliced

1 White onion, chopped

1 Carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 Cup Puy lentils

1 Bouquet garni consisting of 2 bay leaves, fresh parsley, basil, sage and thyme sprigs, tied up with twine.

½ Tsp. paprika

½ Tsp. ground coriander seeds

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper


  • Boil the duck carcass in 4 litres of water for 90 minutes.
  • Remove the carcass by placing a colander over another large pot and draining the broth through it. The meat and bones will remain in it.
  • Allow the carcass to cool a little, then remove the bones from meat. Set the meat aside and discard the bones.
  • Return the broth to the soup pot.
  • Bring to the boil over medium heat, and add the vegetables, bouquet garni and spices. Season to taste and cook for 30 minutes.
  • While the vegetables are cooking, chop the pieces of duck, and return them to soup. Lower the heat to medium-low.
  • Simmer the soup for about an hour.
  • Remove the bouquet garni and check the seasoning.
  • Serve with crusty bread.


“Gentlemen, Chicolini here may talk like an idiot, and look like an idiot, but don't let that fool you: he really is an idiot. I implore you, send him back to his father and brothers, who are waiting for him with open arms in the penitentiary. I suggest that we give him ten years in Leavenworth, or eleven years in Twelveworth.” – Rufus T Firefly.


Kingklip Chowder: heavenly extinguisher of the cold fire

“I need the sea because it teaches me. I don’t know if I learn music or awareness, if it’s a single wave or its vast existence, or only its harsh voice or its shining suggestion of fishes and ships. What it taught me before, I keep. It’s air, ceaseless wind, water and sand.” – Pablo Neruda.


Pablo Neruda was not only a Nobel Prize winner for Poetry and human rights activist; he was an accomplished cook with a passion for seafood. Two themes shine through in his poetry: his abhorrence of injustice and his love of food. In his poem The Great Tablecloth he denounced the inequalities of his native Chile and laments the poverty and hunger which the working class had to endure: “Eating alone is a disappointment, but not eating matters more. Hunger is hollow and green, has thorns that claw at your insides. Hunger feels like pincers, like the bite of crabs. It burns and has no fire: Hunger is a cold fire.” It is widely believed that he was poisoned by one of Augusto Pinochet’s hitmen while undergoing cancer treatment just after the September 1973 coup.

Neruda spent many years of his life outside of Chile; some because of diplomatic postings, others because of official or self-imposed exile. When in his native country, Neruda’s “happy place” was his house called “Isla Negra” (Black Island) on the Pacific coast south of Valparaiso. Here he wrote poetry, entertained mistresses and cooked – especially seafood. Chile is blessed with untold riches in this regard, and the ocean’s bounty provided him with ample raw material. The following recipe is my adaptation of Neruda’s famous Caldillo de Congrio, a scrumptious chowder made from the Chilean cousin of our Kingklip. To whet your appetite, here is an excerpt from Neruda’s Ode to Conger Chowder: “In the storm-tossed Chilean sea lives the rosy conger, giant eel of snowy flesh. And in Chilean stewpots, along the coast, was born the chowder, thick and succulent, a boon to man. In this chowder are warmed the essences of Chile, and to the table come, newly-wed, the flavours of land and sea, so that in this dish you may know heaven.” Amen…


Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc or unwooded Chardonnay


12 King-sized prawns, headless, peeled and de-veined

4 Kingklip medallions, each about 150g, skinless

4 Medium soft-boiling potatoes, peeled and diced

4 Garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 Shallots, finely chopped

2 Ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and quartered

1 Carrot, finely chopped

1 Green bell pepper, finely chopped

1 Celery stalk, finely chopped

2 Cups fish stock

1 Cup fresh cream

1 Cup quality dry white wine

½ Cup of shelled peas

4 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Fresh cilantro for garnish


  • Bring a pot of salted water to the boil over high heat.
  • Boil the potato dice in it until soft, about 12 minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes and set them aside.
  • Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based pot over medium-high heat.
  • Fry the shallots in the oil until golden, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, carrot, bell pepper, celery and tomatoes and stir in.
  • Add the wine and stock and bring to the boil.
  • Add the fish, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the fish is tender, about 15 minutes.
  • When the fish is cooked, add the potatoes, peas and prawns.
  • Cook for 5 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Turn the heat down to low and stir in the cream. Allow to heat to simmering point before serving.
  • Serve hot, sprinkled with a little chopped cilantro.


“Let us sit down to eat with all those who haven't eaten; let us spread great tablecloths, put salt in the lakes of the world, set up planetary bakeries, tables with strawberries in snow, and a plate like the moon itself from which we can all eat. For now I ask no more than the justice of eating.” – Pablo Neruda.


Rassolnik: the peasant's Guronsan C

Of the Muslim Bulgarians of the Volga the envoys reported there is no gladness among them.  Islam was undesirable due to its taboo against alcoholic beverages and pork. Prince Vladimir The Great remarked on this: “Drinking is the joy of all Rus. We cannot exist without that pleasure.’ And thus it was.” - The chronicler Nestor.


Russians are notorious dipsomaniacs. Their Scandinavian cousins drink hard too, but Russia’s history has been infinitely tougher on its benighted people. Centuries of harsh oppression by the Romanovs was followed by nearly a century of Soviet excesses and interspersed with two world wars that cost more than 20 million Russians their lives – enough to drive anybody to drink! In a nation of binge drinkers, hangovers are inevitably a seriously problem, and hence a hangover remedy is like the Holy Grail in the Rodina (Motherland).

Boris Yeltsin, the first President of the post-communist Russian Federation, was an infamous drunkard, and yet he never seemed to suffer from hangovers. He was invariably jovial and full of beans (among other things). Less well known was his love of a peasant soup called rassolnik. Rassol means brine, the salty liquid used to pickle foodstuffs, and it is considered one of the best remedy for hangovers. During the infamous Ivan the Terrible’s rule, most food (even pies) used to be served soaked in brine. Rassolnik was only one of a wide array of rassol’nye - dishes using brine either as an ingredient or a condiment.

The classic rassolnik was made of kidneys, hearts, spleens and other animal innards that would otherwise be thrown away. It was a poor relation at best, a true “poor man’s soup”. The two main ingredients were barley and pickles – with brine and all. The “secret weapon” was that most ubiquitous Russian vegetable, the potato. In times of plenty carrots were added as well. Modern versions contain other vegetables too, but the Real Mikhoyan consisted of only meat, barley, the occasional carrot, pickles and brine. Seasonings found in traditional recipes include salt, pepper, a pinch of cinnamon and chopped cilantro. My recipe below is a modern, slightly bourgeois version of the original. Try it out if menudo is too outlandish for your liking…


Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Serves 10

Tastes best accompanied by a Vodka Bloody Mary


500g Lean beef, cut into bite-sized pieces

6 Medium gherkins, sliced

3 Medium potatoes, peeled and diced

2 Celery stalks, finely sliced

2 Bay leaves

1 Carrot, thinly sliced

1 Carrot, grated

1 Medium onion, finely chopped

3l Water

½ Cup barley, rinsed

3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

½ Tbsp. salt + more to taste

½ Tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

Sour cream and extra dill for garnish (optional)


  • Cook the beef and barley in the water and salt in a large pot - partially covered – for 30 minutes. Skim off any impurities that rise to the top to keep your soup clear.
  • Sauté the pickles in 1 tbsp. oil for a few minutes on medium-high heat.
  • Add the pickles, potatoes and sliced carrot to the pot and cook for an additional 10 minutes while making your mirepoix (zazharka in Russian).
  • To make the zazharka, sauté the onion in the remaining oil for 2 minutes, then add the grated carrot and sliced celery and continue to cook until the carrots have softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomato paste, then add this mixture to the contents of the soup pot.
  • Toss in the bay leaves, black pepper, dill and salt to taste.
  • Continue to simmer for another 2 minutes or until your potatoes are fully cooked and can be easily pierced with a fork.
  • Serve, with or without a dollop of sour cream and some dill, it’s your choice.


“I drink too much. The last time I gave a urine sample it had an olive in it.” - Rodney Dangerfield.

Goulash Soup: hungry for paprika

“Hash browns, sausage, gravy and mash / Casseroled stew or goulash; / Poached, simmered maybe pressure cooked / Tempting meals from Granma's book.” – Brian Strand.


Hungarian food and wine both deserve far greater popularity and renown than they currently enjoy.  Their breads and smoked sausages are fantastic, as are their meats, stews and desserts. The “noble rot” version of Tokaji wine is reasobaly well-known in the rest of the world, but there are many undiscovered gems among the table wines of this region. Food-wise, the one well-known dish from the land of the Magyars is goulash, or  gulyás, meaning “herdsman”, in the vernacular. Its origins date back to the 9th-Century Magyar shepherds as a simple meat and onion stew prepared in heavy iron kettles known as bogracs.  In the 15th Century invading Ottoman Turks introduced paprika to Hungary. Whereas the rest of Europe remained lukewarm towards this new spice from the New World, Hungary embraced it and paprika has since become a defining element of Hungarian cuisine. Goulash was no exception!

Goulash has a split personality: it is very thin for a stew and very thick for a soup. In Hungary, with its milder climate, it is most often eaten as a stew (see my recipe in the “Meat” recipe section of this blog). In generally much colder Austria, it is best known as a comforting spicy soup. There, warming bowls of goulash soup are served everywhere in winter - from quick-service restaurants along the Autobahn to Vienna's elegant Hotel Bristol. This hearty soup can be found in many areas of Central and Eastern Europe, especially in regions that were once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Traditional Hungarian goulash (stew and soup) is a prime example of how a few simple ingredients, cooked properly, can achieve synergy and yield an incredible flavor. To achieve this, the cooking method is important, and quality Hungarian paprika essential. Lots of it; none of the “2 teaspoons of paprika” nonsense!  Hungarians use very generous amounts of paprika; as the Hungarian dictum goes, “however much paprika the recipe calls for – at least double or preferably triple it!” Although myriad variations of the original goulash exist, as far as I can establish this recipe is as near as dammit to authentic.


Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 2 hours

Serves 8


1.5kg Beef chuck or shin, boneless and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

5 Rashers streaky bacon, chopped

4 Large baking potatoes, peeled and diced

4 Medium onions, finely chopped

3 Garlic cloves, crushed

2 Red bell peppers, finely chopped

5 Cups beef or oxtail stock

5 Cups water

4 Tbsp. cake flour

3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp. tomato paste

3 Tbsp. paprika (preferably Hungarian)

2 Tbsp. canola oil plus am extra dash for frying the bacon

1 ½ Tsp. caraway seeds

½ Tsp. salt


  • Heat a dash of oil in a large pot.
  • Fry the bacon over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp and transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.
  • Brown the chuck in small batches in the fat left in the pot over high heat.
  • When done, transfer it to the bowl with the bacon.
  • Reduce the heat to moderate and add the remaining oil.
  • Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until golden.
  • Stir in the paprika, caraway seeds, and flour and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes.
  • Whisk in the vinegar and tomato paste and cook, whisking, for 1 minute.
  • Stir in the broth, water, salt, bell peppers, bacon, and chuck and bring to a boil, stirring.
  • Simmer the soup, covered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the potatoes to the soup and simmer, covered, until tender, about 30 minutes.
  • Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste and serve with crusty bread.


“A nickel’s worth of goulash beats a five dollar can of vitamins.” – Martin H Fischer.


Faki Soupa: beware of Jews bearing lentils

“Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!’ Jacob said, ’Sell me your birthright now.’ Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’ Jacob said, ‘Swear to me now.’ So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.” – Genesis 25: 29 -34.

The tale of Jacob and Esau is not just important from the religious perspective; it also underscores how much the descendants of Abraham liked lentils. Lentils have been part of man’s diet since antiquity; being one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East. Archeological evidence shows they were already being eaten more than 10,000 years ago, so by the time Jacob was cooking his delectable stew lentils were an established staple among the early Israelites.

Lentil soup has been made in Egypt and India since the Bronze Age, and was the ancient Greeks’ favourite comfort food in winter. Faki soupa, as it is known in Greek, has lost some of its lustre in modern times and is nowadays considered “poor man’s” soup because it is inexpensive to make and very filling. Nevertheless, it is nutritious and tasty and - unlike other dried pulses - lentils do not need overnight soaking. It is traditionally eaten on Good Friday, but without the luxury of the olive oil, in keeping with the spirit of the day.

My version of this classic has no cultural or religious undertones, it is merely a nourishing, heart-warming vegetarian soup. Think of it as the Aegean version of Minestrone!


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 6


250g Large brown, red or Puy lentils

2 Medium onions, finely chopped

2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 Medium carrot, finely chopped

1 Celery stalk, finely chopped

1 Small chilli pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped

1.25l Vegetable stock

500ml Passata (tomato puree)

100ml Olive oil

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Salt and black pepper for seasoning

Fresh parsley or coriander for garnish

Crème fraîche or feta cheese for garnish


  • Rinse the lentils in cold water and place in a large, deep saucepan.
  • Cover with cold water and bring to the boil over medium-high heat.
  • Drain the lentils, return them to the pan and cover with the vegetable stock.
  • Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  • While the lentils are simmering, prepare the vegetables.
  • Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the onions, carrots and celery until soft.
  • Add the garlic and chilli and sauté for a further 2 minutes.
  • Transfer the contents of the frying pan into the pan containing the lentils.
  • Add the passata, cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes. By this time the lentils should be soft.
  • Add the wine vinegar and seasoning and stir in.
  • Serve the soup in bowls, garnished with chopped parsley or coriander. For a fancy finish, add crème fraîche or a little feta cheese on the top.


“The lentil is perhaps the world’s most versatile, indestructible food. One can eat the lentil unadorned; marry it off to its first cousin, the oafish ‘bulgur’; or attempt to drown it in harsh vinegar for a ‘vegan salad’. But the lentil, alas, will always survive.” – Beth Fantaskey.


Tuscany's most photographed building

Tonight tequila; tomorrow Menudo

Polish Yoga

This monk has the cat by the tail

In Spain the rain & almonds stay mainly on the plain

Mushroom and Almond Soup: a yeasty feast

“If penicillin can cure those that are ill, Spanish sherry can bring the dead back to life.” – Alexander Fleming.


Three of my favourite tastes are those of mushrooms, almonds and dry sherry. Some time ago I watched Rick Stein’s TV series on his travels in Spain, and literally drooled as he waxed lyrical about the joys of sipping dry Fino sherry while tasting Jamón Ibérico. I lost no time in getting hold of a bottle of the sherry, but the depressed economy and weak ZAR have ensured that “blackfoot ham” remains on my bucket list. Fino is a bone dry white fortified wine produced within the Jerez de la Frontera wine region. Some of the most renowned brands include Tio Pepe, La Ina and Inocente.

Pedigreed Fino is made from 100% Palomino grape and aged in oak barrels, covered by a layer of yeast. This cap of yeast prevents contact with the air, resulting in a yeasty, saline profile with notes of Mediterranean herbs and almonds. Maturation of at least 2 years in wooden barrels is prescribed by law, but the best examples are aged between four to seven years. Fino is produced in a Solera system, whereby interconnected barrels are stacked in layers and the sherry trickles down; gradually refreshing lower (older) barrels with the contents of the higher (younger) barrels.

Fino is integral to the recipe below. The heavy yeasting gives the sherry much of its musty character and complements the mushrooms perfectly, while the almonds provide richness and texture to the soup.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by – guess what?


250g Mushrooms (preferably porcini or shiitake; alternatively Portobello or brown), chopped

130g Almonds, lightly toasted plus extra for garnish

3 Garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 Large onion, finely chopped

1L mushroom or chicken stock

5 Tbsp. Fino or Pale Dry sherry

4 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. dried porcini or chanterelle mushrooms, rehydrated with boiling water

1 Tsp. fresh thyme leaves

1 Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped plus extra for garnish

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper


  • Heat the oil in a deep saucepan or pot over medium heat.
  • Gently fry the onion and garlic for 15 minutes until golden and sweet, stirring every now and then.
  • Add the thyme and fresh mushrooms and cook for another 15 minutes until the moisture in the mushrooms has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.
  • While the aromatics are cooking, pound the almonds in small batches in a pestle and mortar (or process in a blender) until as fine as possible.
  • Add the stock, Fino and dried mushrooms and their steeping water to the pan.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Stir the almonds and parsley into the soup and check the seasoning once more.
  • Garnish with almonds and parsley, and serve with crusty bread on the side.


“Soup is the song of the hearth... and the home.” – Louis Pullig De Gouy.


Thai Beetroot Soup: not Tom Yum; Yum Yum!

“You should eat Thai food the way the Thai do – sparingly.” – Rohit Khare.


Until a few decades ago Thai cuisine was relatively obscure outside South-East Asia, but nowadays most big cities anywhere in the world will boast several Thai restaurants. The fusion food movement has also played a part in popularising Thai food. Its pre-occupation with balance makes Thai cuisine both a strong influence on others and capable of incorporating foreign influences. Thailand's location at the crossroads of India, Indonesia, China and the Indo-Chinese peninsula has also contributed to the eclectic and diverse nature of Thai cooking.

Thai cooking is characterised by dishes with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge. At its heart is a complex interplay of at least three - and up to four or five - fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy. Unlike most cuisines, Thai cooking rejects simplicity and is about the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish. Lots of attention is also paid to the food's appearance, smell and context. Thai soups exhibit the same elements, and are divided into three categories: seasoned (often sweet and sour), herbed (mostly hot and sour), and spicy (usually creamy and aromatic).

The following recipe comes from the last category. It is ridiculously easy to make, delicious, nourishing and looks stunning. This soup marries the earthy sweetness of beetroot with light Thai aromatics.


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Blanc de Noir


For the stock:

6 Lime leaves, shredded

4 Shallots, finely chopped

4 Lemon grass stalks, trimmed and chopped

3 Garlic cloves, finely sliced

2 Thumb-sized pieces of galangal (Thai ginger), finely sliced, or a 3cm-long cinnamon stick

2 Thumb-sized pieces of root ginger, grated

1 Thai or Bird's eye chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

1 Cup cilantro, stalks and leaves chopped (reserve a few leaves for garnishing)

1 Tbsp. sunflower oil

650ml Cold water

For the soup:

500g Cooked beetroot (not pickled), roughly chopped

400ml Coconut milk

2 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce

Juice of 2 limes

½ Tsp. salt


  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  • Fry the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, ginger and lime leaves in the oil for 3 - 4 minutes to release their flavour.
  • Add the water and the rest of the stock ingredients.
  • Bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes before straining and discarding the solids.
  • Return the stock to the pan, add the chopped beetroot and bring back to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Blitz with a stick blender, then add the coconut milk and bring the pan back to a simmer again.
  • Add the fish sauce, salt and lime juice (the latter to taste). The soup should taste sharp and sweet.
  • Serve garnished with the reserved whole cilantro.


"They do it in Thai restaurants in London. You ask for a drink, and it comes in a glass with loads of seaweed and pebbles in it like a scene from Finding Nemo." – Karl Pilkington.


Ogorkowa Soup: riding high in the Poles

“In the final analysis, a pickle is a cucumber with experience.” – Irena Chalmers.


Anyone wanting to experience authentic traditional Polish cuisine, should stop counting calories. Most meals are very hearty, and usually contain a lot of meat. Fortunately most are tasty and comforting, and therefore worth putting on a few ounces. Poles are justifiably proud of their two staples, bread and sausages, which are integral to many of their dishes.
Other common ingredients used in Polish cuisine are cabbage (fresh and sauerkraut), beetroot, pickled cucumbers, sour cream, kohlrabi, mushrooms and bacon. A shot of vodka is an appropriate addition to festive meals, or to simply help guests digest the food.

Because of its location between Western and Eastern Europe, Poland's cuisine has absorbed numerous elements from its neighbours, and its once-large Jewish population enriched Polish cuisine with many recipes and techniques. Much like the British, modern-day Poles are embracing lighter, fresher (and more exotic) food, and Italian, French and Asian foods are gaining in popularity among Poland's urban middle class. But below the surface most Poles remain deeply attached to their own cuisine, even if many recipes are time-consuming and laborious. A fine example is ogorkowa (gherkin) soup. While not particularly glamorous, it is comforting and tasty – and much loved by ordinary Poles.


Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 2 hours

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a Merlot or Malbec


750g Stewing beef, bone in

100ml Sour cream or natural yoghurt

8 Large pickled cucumbers (gherkins), grated

6 Whole peppercorns

3 Medium potatoes, peeled and grated

2 Large carrots, peeled and sliced

2 Garlic cloves, chopped

2 Medium onions, peeled and diced

2 Medium leeks (white parts only), chopped

2 Celery stalks, chopped

2 Bay leaves

½ Cup Flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 Tbsp. cake flour

2 Tbsp. butter

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper for seasoning


  • Bring 2l of water to the boil in a large soup pot.
  • Add the meat and bring to the boil over medium-high heat.
  • Cover and cook for an hour. Meanwhile heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry one of the onions in it.
  • When the onion begins to brown add the garlic, mix and fry over low heat for about 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Add the fresh vegetables, the second onion, the bay leaves and peppercorns to the broth. Cook for another 30 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Return the pan containing the onion and garlic to the stove over low heat. When the mixture starts sizzling, add the grated cucumber.
  • Fry together for a few minutes, then add this mixture to the soup. Add the potatoes and cook the soup over medium heat until the potatoes are soft.
  • When the soup is about 15 minutes from ready, whisk the flour and cream together.
  • Slowly pour the mixture into the soup, stirring continually and vigorously.
  • Heat the finished soupthrough, but do not allow it to boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.
  • Serve with slices of rye or wholegrain bread on the side.


"Throughout history, the Poles have defended Europe. They would fight, and - between battles - they would eat soup and drink.” - Eduard de Pomiand.


Menudo Soup: for tripers of the light fantastic

“Nobody is beautiful; some are only close. Beauty is a combo like menudo and a tortilla; it comes from the inside and outside.” – José Simon.


Curing (or at least moderating) hangovers has been a human pre-occupation since the days of Noah. They vary widely between countries. As a young man I favoured Kris Kristofferson’s beer for breakfast, and later on turned to strong black coffee with a tot of brandy. Nowadays I treat the occasional “babalaas” with the classic 2 Panados and lots of water. In Mexico party animals swear by a tasty, soup called menudo. Perhaps it is the rich savoury flavour and distinctive spongy texture that does the trick, or maybe the high content of vitamin B has something to do about it.

Menudo is basically a tripe soup, and is usually sold on weekends in small mom-and-pop kitchens called fondas, or in restaurants that specialise in traditional Chicano food. Because it is eaten in many parts of Mexico, the soup is called different names in different regions. It is also known as pancita and mondongo. The recipe also varies from region to region. In the northern states some cooks add “hominy” (corn) to make a robust foil for the meat. Other cooks will add different chilli peppers and even tomato. The recipe below is, in my view, close to the Real McCoy.


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 3 ½ hours

Serves 8

Tastes best accompanied by a Shiraz


For the broth:

1.5kg Clean tripe, cut into small bite-sized pieces

1 Cow heel (usually sold already cut up in pieces)

500g Marrow bones

4 Large garlic cloves, halved

1 Medium onion, thickly sliced

2 Tsp. dry oregano

1 ½ Tsp. salt

For the sauce:

6 Jalapeño chillies, cleaned, seeded and opened flat

3 Garlic cloves, halved

1 Tsp. ground cumin

For the garnishing:

¾ Cup white onion, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. chopped Serrano chillies (if you like hot food)

Fresh cilantro, chopped

Lemons cut into wedges


  • Simmer the cow heel and marrow bones, uncovered, in a large pot with 6 quarts of water, 4 of the garlic cloves and the onion for about 15 minutes. Skim off any foam that forms.
  • Add the tripe and oregano and cook until tripe is tender but firm (make sure you do not overcook). This should take about 2 ½ hours.
  • Remove the cow heel and marrow bones from the pot. Skim the fat that forms on top of the broth.
  • Once the cow heel has cooled a little, remove the bones and chop the meaty parts that are to be returned to the pot.
  • While the meat is cooking, prepare the chilli sauce. Toast the peppers in a pan over medium heat. Press them down with a spatula, slightly toasting them without burning them.
  • Place the toasted peppers in a bowl and cover with water. Let them soak for about 25 minutes until soft.
  • Drain the peppers and place them in your blender with the rest of the garlic, ½ cup of the broth, and the cumin. Blend until very smooth.
  • Strain the sauce using a sieve and pour into the pot.
  • Simmer the broth for another 30 minutes, partially covered. Season to taste with more salt if needed.
  • Serve the soup in large bowls and place the garnishes in side dishes so everyone can add to their liking.
  • Serve with warm corn tortillas to soak in the broth.


“Do not let the word ‘tripe’ deter you. Let its soothing charms win you over, and enjoy it as do those who always have!” – Fergus Henderson.


Ribollita: it might well turn you into a mangiafagiolo...

“Laughter is the valve on the pressure cooker of life. Either you laugh and suffer, or you got your beans or brains on the ceiling.” – Will Rogers.


Italian food is loved the world over, even though there is no such thing. In fact, in Italy there is only regional Italian food. Each region offers dishes based on its history and location, and Tuscany’s world-renowned food is no exception. Tuscan cuisine is based on the Italian idea of cucina povera or “cooking of the poor.” A concept that started very literally, it’s about simple meals that are inexpensive and could easily be made in large amounts. Today it remains largely the same – but by choice instead of economy.

Tuscan cooking is not about strong seasoning or elaborate techniques because they’re not needed. Instead it’s based on using fresh, high-quality ingredients that bring out the natural flavours of each dish. Bread (often unsalted), beans and roasted meats serve as the base of most traditional Tuscan meals. Tuscans are often called mangiafagioli (“bean eaters”), for a reason – they really love them, and prepare them in many ways. Tuscans are also particularly fond of soup. The two stars of the show are ribollita, a vegetable and bread soup, and papa al pomodoro, a tomato soup.

Ribollita is a quintessential Tuscan dish; simple yet rich. Ribollita literally means "reboiled". Like most Tuscan cuisine, the soup has peasant origins. There are many variations but the main ingredients always include leftover bread, cannellini beans and inexpensive vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, spinach and onions. While many recipes include chicken stock or pancetta, the original Tuscan version is 100% vegetarian. It would be vegan except for the addition of cheese. I have chosen to share a “non-authentic” recipe, simply because I find it heartier with a bit of extra savouriness.


Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 min

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a Chardonnay


900g Tinned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

6 Slices ciabatta bread

5 Cups chicken stock

4 Cloves garlic, chopped

2 Shallots, chopped

1 Fresh sage leaf

1 Cup cream

2 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. olive oil

½ Tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling


  • Place a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed soup pot on medium heat.
  • Add the butter, olive oil, and shallots.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the sage and beans and stir to combine.
  • Add the stock and bring the mixture to a simmer.
  • Add the garlic and simmer until the garlic is softened, about 10 minutes.
  • Transfer the soup to a large bowl.
  • Carefully ladle ½ of the soup into a blender and puree until smooth. Be careful to hold the top of the blender tightly, as hot liquids expand when they are blended.
  • Pour the blended soup back into the soup pot.
  • Add the cream and the pepper and stir it in.
  • Keep warm, covered, over very low heat.
  • Place a frying pan over medium-high heat.
  • Drizzle the slices of ciabatta with olive oil.
  • Fry the bread until warm and golden grill marks appear, about 3 minutes a side.
  • Serve the soup in bowls with the grilled bread alongside.


“Beans are such a nice, neutral canvas, you can make a big, basic pot of them and then play around with them differently every day.” – Mario Batali.


What's a soup kitchen, David?

Tourists cycling through Cao Dung

Paul Stamets living the high life

Chicken Itza

Here in Alsace, saerkraut is called choucroute

Kapustnyak: seriously pleasant peasant food

“What a marvellous resource soup is for the thrifty cook: it solves the ham-bone and lamb-bone problems, the everlasting Thanksgiving turkey, the extra vegetables.” - Julia Child.


Like my French kinfolk in the old country, I love pork in its many incarnations: ham, bacon, salami, smoked ribs, sausages, pates – get me started and I’ll beat Bubba Blue and his shrimps! Mention pork and another of my favourite foods comes to mind: sauerkraut. Pungent, salty and tart all at the same time, it is the perfect accompaniment to rich meat or sausage dishes. It’s very good for you too – in fact, the process that turns cabbage into kraut is the same one that turns milk into yogurt. Lactobacilli bacteria which are naturally present on the cabbage leaves, ferment the sugars in the cabbage into tangy, enzyme-rich kraut which is wonderful for your digestion and gut health.

No wonder the nations of Central and Eastern Europe are so attached to the pig and the cabbage. These two foods were central to surviving the harsh winters. Both could be cured, and were therefore staples in peasants’ winter diets.  With sauerkraut and dried beans often their primary vegetables and ham, bacon and salami the meat staples during the cold months, they got creative with it and came up with classics like Kapustnyak (Ukrainian for “sauerkraut soup”). It’s a wonderful example of how the farming folk of Ukraine made delicious foods with a limited range of basic ingredients. The sauerkraut gives it a lovely texture and zing and the bacon provides a subtle smokiness. It makes an excellent combination with fresh crusty bread. 


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a Shiraz or Tinta Barocca


900g Sauerkraut, rinsed and drained 

400g Gammon steak, 1cm³ dice 

400g Tinned kidney beans, drained 

150g Back bacon, finely chopped

1.2 L Chicken stock 

2 Medium potatoes, peeled and grated 

4 Garlic cloves, chopped 

2 Onions, chopped 

2 Dried bay leaves 

1 Large carrot, chopped 

2 Tbsp. butter 

1 Tbsp. olive or canola oil

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper 

Fresh parsley leaves, chopped, for garnish 

Fresh, crusty bread 


  • Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.
  • Add the bacon and brown it. Remove the bacon, and reserve.
  • Add the ham and brown it, then remove and reserve.
  • Melt in the butter, and add the garlic, onions, potatoes, carrots and bay leaf.
  • Partially cover and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the stock and 2 cups of water, and bring to the boil.
  • Add the reserved ham and bacon, the sauerkraut and the beans, and simmer until the potatoes are cooked, about 15 minutes more.
  • Check the seasoning.
  • Add the parsley just before serving and serve the soup accompanied by the bread.


“Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not commit adultery. Don't eat pork. I'm sorry, what was that last one?? ‘Don't eat pork?’ Is that the word of God or is that pigs trying to prank the Jews?”  – Jon Stewart.


Caldo Tlalpeño: not all uppers from Mexico are illegal

“Almost every culture has its own variation on chicken soup, and rightly so - it's one of the most gratifying dishes on the face of the Earth.” - Yotam Ottolenghi.


Chicken soup has acquired an exalted (and well-deserved) reputation as a folk remedy for colds and ‘flu, as well as one of the best comfort foods around. No other people value chicken soup higher than the Jews, and it has become a traditional dish of Jewish cuisine. The 12th-Century rabbi and physician Maimonides was the first scientist to tout the benefits of chicken soup to one's health. The traditional Jewish version of chicken soup incorporates lots of herbs (generally parsley, thyme and/or dill) and is usually served with matzah balls, dumplings or lokshen (flat egg noodles).

Jewish mothers are not alone in using chicken soup as their “penicillin” though. One of the countries where making chicken soup has been elevated to an art form is Mexico. The version eaten by urban people is known as Caldo de Pollo (“chicken broth”) and is made with whole chicken pieces instead of chopped or shredded chicken, and large cuts of vegetables, such as half-slices of potatoes and whole leaves of cabbage. The other variety of Mexican chicken soup is the more authentic and interesting caldo tlalpeño, which contains hot chillies and is garnished with chopped avocado, white cheese, and cilantro.

If you like chicken soup, and have an adventurous palate, this soup will blow you away. I have substituted pickled jalapeño for fresh or dried chillies to make it less than sizzling hot, but you are free to experiment if you like hot stuff.


Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Chenin Blanc


2 Chicken breasts, skinless and filleted

2 Garlic cloves, crushed

1 Avocado, peeled and chopped

1 Onion, finely diced

900ml Chicken stock

2 Cups tinned, chopped tomatoes 

2 Cups frozen corn kernels

½ Cup orange or white cheddar, grated

½ Cup feta or cream cheese

½ Cup cilantro, chopped

3 Tbsp. pickled jalapeños, finely diced

2 Tsp. tomato paste

1 Tsp. chilli powder

1 Tsp. olive oil

½ Tsp. salt


  • Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion becomes translucent, 2 - 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomato paste and chilli powder. Cook for a minute.
  • Add the chicken stock and salt.
  • Bring the mixture to the boil and add the chicken breasts.
  • Boil, covered, until chicken is cooked through, 6 - 8 minutes.
  • Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and allow to cool slightly.
  • Add the tinned tomatoes, frozen corn and jalapeños to the soup.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and boil gently for 5 minutes.
  • Shred the chicken, using 2 forks, then stir it into soup.
  • Ladle the soup into 4 bowls and top to taste with a combination of avocado, cheese and cilantro.


“Don't tell them you're not a Marxist, darling, we saw Groucho’s ‘Duck Soup’ together at the Rialto just last week.” – Pansy Schneider-Horst.


Cream of Mushroom Soup: this fungus will grow on you

“Soup is to a dinner what a portico is to a building; that is to say, it is not only the first part of it, but it must be devised in such a manner as to set the tone of the whole banquet, in the same way as the overture of an opera announces the subject of the work." - Grimod de la Reynière.


I have loved mushrooms passionately ever since I tasted wild porcini as a boy more than 50 years ago. What’s not to like? They are delicious – on their own or as ingredients - and a nutritious food source, kind to any diet or menu. Edible mushrooms come in a range of shapes, sizes, textures, colours, flavours, scents, and densities. If you have only ever eaten white button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus), you have most certainly been missing out.

Apart from tasting great, mushrooms are also a very nutritious addition to our diets. Mushrooms are by and large high in protein and dietary fibre while being low in fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. Depending on the substrate that they were grown on, mushrooms contain varying amounts of trace minerals. Mushrooms also synthesize high quantities of B vitamins and vitamin D (in fact, mushrooms are the only non-animal source of vitamin D), a great benefit for vegetarians and vegans. They also contain varying amounts of other essential amino acids and vitamins such as A & K.

Whatever your reason for eating mushrooms, please note that you must cook your mushrooms prior to consumption. The cell walls of fungi are comprised of chitin, a compound that is indigestible to humans and must be broken down with heat. It is advisable from a culinary perspective as well - sautéing your mushrooms to cook off the large amount of water in the tissue. This also concentrates and enhances the flavour of the mushroom.

Mushroom soup is really easy and simple to make and can be on the table in under an hour. It also brings the lovely umami flavour of the mushrooms to the fore. You don’t need to break the bank to make it. Look out for “value packs” of mushrooms if you're planning to cook the mushroom soup below – they don’t need to be perfect looking or all the same shape. Large Portobello or brown mushrooms will give the best flavour; simply wipe them clean with a damp piece of paper towel – there is no need to wash them. If you have more than two mouths to feed simply multiply the quantities as needed.


Preparation time: 35 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves 2

Tastes best accompanied by a Merlot or Malbec


400g Portobello or brown mushrooms, wiped and roughly chopped

½ Cup of dried Porcini or Shiitake mushrooms

650ml Mushroom or vegetable stock

100ml Thick cream

2 Shallots, finely chopped

2 Garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

50g Butter

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Fresh chopped French chives and thyme leaves for garnish


  • Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes. Reserve the steeping liquid.
  • Heat the butter in a medium-sized pot over medium heat.
  • Fry the shallots and garlic for 5 minutes until softened but not brown.
  • Add the mushrooms and fry gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Pour in the stock and steeping liquid, add the rehydrated dried mushrooms and season with salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes until the mushrooms are very tender.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then puree the soup with a stick blender or transfer to a food processor and process until smooth.
  • Stir the cream into the pureed soup and heat through gently for 2 - 3 minutes.
  • Check the seasoning to taste and serve in warmed bowls garnished with the parsley and thyme, and crusty bread on the side.


“If you feel all damp and lonely like a mushroom, find the thick, creamy soup of joyfulness and just dive into it in order to make life tastier” – Munia Khan.


Beef Pho Soup: I'm hooked pho life pho sho!

"You don’t give someone notes on their performance at a soup kitchen." – Dan Harmon.


Vietnamese beef and noodle Pho (pronounced "fuh"!) is an easy soup to fall in love with. Those chewy noodles, the savoury broth, the tender slices of beef - a bowl of piping hot pho is pretty much always a good idea. Measures of its growing global popularity include the word "pho" being added to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary in 2007, and it being listed at number 28 on "World's 50 most delicious foods" compiled by CNN Go in 2011. Although it looks and feels like a restaurant staple, but it's not actually all that hard to make at home if you have the time.

Pho originated in the early 20th century in northern Vietnam, and was inspired by Chinese migrant workers. The French colonists’ appetite for red meat led to more beef being produced, which in turn produced beef bones that were purchased by Chinese workers to make into a dish similar to pho called nguu nhuc phan. This dish popular in the Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Guangdong, whence most workers came. Pho was originally sold to workers at dawn and dusk by roaming street vendors, who shouldered mobile kitchens on carrying poles. Hanoi's first two fixed pho stands were opened shortly after World War I, and they soon proliferated all over the North.

With the partition of Vietnam in 1954, over a million people fled the Communist North for South Vietnam, and pho - previously unpopular in the South - suddenly took off. No longer confined to northern culinary traditions, variations in meat and broth appeared, and additional garnishes, such as lime, bean sprouts, cilantro, scallion, hoy sin and soya sauces became standard fare. In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, refugees brought pho to many countries. Restaurants specializing in pho appeared in numerous “Little Saigons” in cities like Paris, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Sydney. Pho can now be found in cafeterias at many American and Canadian college and corporate campuses, especially on the West Coast.

In the recipe below I tried to stay true to the original North Vietnamese cooking style, but added a few latter-day touches to give the soup’s flavour more depth and make it more visually pleasing.  


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 5 ½ hours

Serves 8

Tastes best accompanied by a Pinotage or Malbec


900g Oxtail, chopped

450g Beef soft shin, sliced

450g Rice noodles

2 ½ L water

1 Cup fresh bean sprouts

6 Star anise pods

6 Cloves garlic, chopped

3 Bay leaves

2 Whole cloves

1 Jalapeno pepper, sliced into rings

1 Large onion, peeled and quartered

1 Piece of fresh ginger (about 10cm long), sliced

1 Cinnamon stick, about 10cm long

1 Cardamom pod

2 Tbsp. white sugar

2 Tbsp. fish sauce

1 Tbsp. dark soya sauce

1 Tbsp. sunflower or canola oil

1 Tsp. fennel seed

1 Tsp. whole coriander seeds

Cilantro and/or mint leaves for garnish


  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  • Cook the beef shin, oxtail and ginger in the hot oil, turning occasionally, until browned.
  • Add the star anise, fennel, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom pod to the pot and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir the water, onion, garlic, white sugar, and bay leaves into the beef mixture and bring to the boil.
  • Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the broth is fragrant and the meat is falling off the bone, at least 5 hours.
  • Remove the meat and reserve.
  • Strain the broth into a pot; discard strained spices and vegetables.
  • Chop the beef shin and strip the meat off the oxtail cutlets, and add the meat to the broth.
  • Stir in the scallions and fish and soya sauces.
  • Bring the broth to a simmer and reduce the heat to low so as to just keep your broth warm.
  • Place the rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water.
  • Set aside until the noodles are softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Drain and rinse in cold water.
  • Place a handful of bean sprouts on the bottom of each individual soup bowl.
  • Top with a handful of the prepared rice noodles and scatter a few jalapeno slices over the noodles.
  • Ladle the beef broth into the bowl.
  • Serve garnished with cilantro and/or mint, with lime wedges, hoisin sauce, and chilli-garlic sauce on the side.


There’s sorrow and pain in everyone’s life, but every now and then there’s a ray of light that melts the loneliness in your heart and brings comfort, like hot soup and a soft bed.” – Robert Selby Jr.


Apple and Parsnip Soup: more than just comfort for the soul

“I was about five years old when I was eating soup in our kitchen, and as I was lifting the spoon towards my mouth, it bent and broke in half.” - Uri Geller.


Winter is the season when soup comes into its own. Whether you are just coming in from the cold outdoors or suffering from a cold, nothing is as comforting as hot soup. Ancient cultures were using soup and broth as home remedies for colds and flu before the time of Christ, and modern scientific research shows that soup is more than just good for your soul. For example, chicken soup contains an amino acid that closely resembles a pharmacological agent often prescribed for bronchitis. Traditional ingredients in soup like garlic and pepper work as natural decongestants -- they thin out mucus and make breathing easier. Importantly, tests have shown that soup containing bone broth (whether poultry or meat) has anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation has been linked to chronic diseases like cancer, arthritis, and heart disease.

Whether or not you feel under the weather, soup is an excellent meal during the winter months when your body needs more warming food. Soup is a wonderful hydrator and gives your body much-needed liquid. On top of all that, soup is easy to digest, making it a great way to get valuable nutrients into your diet. Although this may sound weird to Western ears, many other cultures eat soup for breakfast. In China, children are sent off to school after eating a bowl of soup made with rice grains. Japanese kids do the same but sip their soup made with an ocean vegetable broth and fermented miso paste. What people in these cultures know is that in the morning, warming soups are a great way to "break the fast" after 8 -12 hours without food or liquids. Having warm soup in the morning stimulates digestion, igniting your "digestive fire" and prepares your digestive tract for later meals.

Today I’m going to share a recipe using some seemingly unusual ingredients: apple and parsnip. It's funny - I'll go most of the year without even thinking about parsnips, but as soon as winter arrives, I start craving them. They're the perfect vegetable to eat during the colder months; hearty and comforting, with a subtle sweetness and an earthy, root vegetable flavour. This makes them ideal partners to apples or quinces, and if you don’t want the dish to be overwhelmingly sweet add potato. Such perfect flavour pairings don't need much else by way of herbs or spices; these will detract from the flavours of the main ingredients. The starchy potato also helps to make the soup creamy without needing to add any extra dairy.

I like to serve my soups with some toppings to add a bit of variety. With this one I use a few crumbles of feta cheese and some chopped pecan nuts for a bit of crunch, as well as plenty of black pepper. The cheese goes especially well with this slightly sweet soup. You are free to choose your own toppings, or just serve this soup on its own, with some fresh bread.


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves 4 

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Colombard


For the soup:

3 Garlic cloves, crushed

2 Medium onions, grated

2 Medium parsnips, peeled and finely chopped

1 Large potato, peeled and grated

1 Golden delicious apple, peeled and grated

400ml Chicken stock

20g Butter

1 Tbsp. sunflower of canola oil

Freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Salt for seasoning

Toppings (optional):

Plain feta cheese, crumbled

Chopped pecan nuts


  • Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan, and cook the onion and garlic over a medium-low heat, stirring every minute or so, until soft and translucent.
  • When the onions are cooked, add the other vegetables to the pan, and mix well.
  • Add the stock (it should be almost covering the vegetables), and cover with a lid, leaving just a small gap for ventilation.
  • Simmer over medium heat for about 25 minutes, stirring every now and then, until all the vegetables are soft.
  • When the vegetables are ready, use an immersion blender to blend the soup until smooth.
  • Season with a generous amount of black pepper - you probably won't need salt unless you used low-sodium stock.
  • Adjust the thickness of the soup as desired - if you'd like it to be thinner, just add a little more stock, and if you'd like it to be thicker, cook over a medium heat for a few more minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Serve topped with the cheese and nuts, if desired.


“One whiff of a savory aromatic soup and appetites come to attention.  The steaming fragrance of a tempting soup is a prelude to the goodness to come.  An inspired soup puts family and guests in a receptive mood for enjoying the rest of the menu.” - Louis P. De Gouy.

Back in Chennai we called it "molo tunny"

Barry O'Bama toasts St Paddy with fellow Black Irish

Crazy perhaps, but he was Spain's first foodie

Guess who ate all her Groentensoep as a child?

Ukrainians were never big fans

Borscht: Red like Mother Russia

“Borscht is more than a soup, it's a weather vane. When my family says they want hot borscht I know winter is coming, and when they want cold borscht I know how far can spring be behind?” – Gertrude Berg.


Borscht, the iconic sour East European soup, was originally a poor man's food. The soup's humble beginnings are still reflected in the Polish idiom "cheap like borscht" which is the equivalent of "dirt cheap" whereas “adding two mushrooms to borscht" is synonymous with excess. It was all but unknown in aristocratic circles. It is prevalent in several East European cuisines, including Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian, Romanian and Ashkenazi Jewish. The variety most commonly associated with the name in the West is of Ukrainian origin and includes beetroot as the main ingredient, which gives the dish a distinctive red colour. It shares the name, however, with a wide selection of sour-tasting soups without beetroots, such as sorrel-based green borscht, rye-based white borscht and cabbage borscht.

Borscht evolved from an ancient soup originally cooked from pickled hogweed, an herbaceous plant that grows in damp meadows, which lent the dish its Slavic name. Over time, it evolved into a diverse array of tart soups, among which the beet-based red borscht has become the best-known. Its popularity has spread further east and south during the time of the former Romanov Empire, and west during the Soviet era and – by way of migration – to other continents. Today, several ethnic groups claim borscht, in its various local guises, as their own and consume it as part of ritual meals. These peoples belong to religious traditions as diverse as Eastern and Russian Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism and Judaism.


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Serves 10


3 Medium beets, thoroughly washed

3 Medium potatoes, peeled and diced

2 Large carrots, peeled and grated

1 Medium onion, finely chopped

½ Head of cabbage

2 Bay leaves

1 Cup of canned kidney beans with their juice

10 Cups water

8 Cups chicken stock

5 Tbsp. tomato sauce

4 Tbsp. lemon juice

4 Tbsp. sunflower oil

1 Tbsp. chopped dill

Salt and freshly-ground pepper to season


  • Pour the water into a large soup pot and add the beets. Bring to the boil,
  • Cover and boil for an hour. Once you can smoothly pierce the beets with a butter knife, remove from the water and set aside to cool. Keep the water.
  • Place the diced potatoes in the cooking water and boil for 20 minutes.
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté the onion and carrots until soft (7-10 minutes). Stir in the tomato sauce when the vegetables are almost done.
  • Meanwhile, thinly shred the cabbage and add it to the soup pot when potatoes are half way done.
  • Next, peel and grate the beets and return them to the pot.
  • Add the chicken stock, lemon juice, pepper, bay leaves and kidney beans (with their juice) to the pot.
  • Add the sautéed carrots and onion to the pot along with the chopped dill.
  • Cook for another 10 minutes, until the cabbage is done.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve with a dollop of sour cream or tangy mayonnaise.


“Everything I do, I do on the principle of Russian borscht. You can throw everything into it beets, carrots, cabbage, onions, everything you want. What's important is the result, the taste of the borscht." - Yevgeny Yevtushenko.


Groentensoep met Balletjes: fluid meat & potatoes

“De soep wordt nooit zo heet gegeten als ze wordt opgediend.” (The soup is never eaten as hot as it is served, i.e. things are usually not as bad as they first appear.) – Dutch proverb.


The Dutch were the original “meat and potatoes” people. Their traditional dinner consists of one simple course: potatoes, meat and vegetables. Potatoes make up the bulk of a serving, along with a large portion of vegetables and a small portion of meat with gravy. Often the three elements are combined in the form of a stamppot: mashed potatoes with meat and vegetables incorporated. Stamppot is traditionally eaten as a comfort food in winter.

In the Netherlands soups are often merely thinner versions of stews. Examples include Snert (pea and ham soup) and Groentensoep (vegetable soup). The latter is a clear but hearty soup, based on a vegetable or beef stock, filled with several vegetables, and sometimes vermicelli and meatballs (“met vleesballetjes”). In the past, a small bowl of soup was often served as an entree at dinner, nowadays it is also served as a complete meal together with bread. Here is my interpretation.


Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 1 ½ hours

Serves 6


For the broth:

2 Onions, chopped

2 Carrots, grated

3 Stalks celery, chopped

3 Cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 Sprigs parsley, chopped

3 Bay leaves

1 Sprig fresh thyme

2 Tsp. bruised pepper corns

½ Tsp. salt

For the soup:

2 Potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 Carrots, peeled and grated

2 Leeks, thinly sliced

1 Tomato, peeled and chopped

½ Cup frozen peas, thawed

½ Cup vermicelli

A bouquet garni (I use parsley, sage, thyme and celery leaf)

Salt to taste

For the meatballs:

200g Beef mince

100g Pork mince

2 Tbsp. dried breadcrumbs

1 Tbsp. scallions, finely chopped

1 Tsp. ground coriander

½ Tsp. ground nutmeg

½ Tsp. Worcestershire sauce

¼ Tsp. marjoram or basil, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste


  • Make the broth first. Place all the ingredients in a large cooking pot and cover with 2l cold water.
  • Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Sieve the broth and discard the solids.
  • Make the meatballs by mixing all the ingredients and rolling the mixture into small balls (about half the size of golf balls).
  • Bring the broth to a simmer and add the meatballs, soup vegetables and vermicelli.
  • Stir once, very gently, to prevent breaking the meatballs.
  • Cook with the lid partly on the pot until the meatballs start floating (this means they are cooked).
  • Add the green herbs and season to taste with salt.
  • Simmer gently for another couple of minutes.
  • Serve on its own or with some crusty bread.

"Geduld, en gras zal melk worden.” (Patience, and the grass shall become milk) – Dutch proverb.


Spanish Garlic Soup: why the peasants are revolting

"No one is indifferent to garlic. People either love it or hate it, and most good cooks seem to belong to the first group." - Faye Levy.


The Spanish Region of Castille – La Mancha is a rugged, semi-desert land - its Moorish name, Al-Manchara, literally means "Dry Land". The culinary tradition of the area reflects the foods eaten by its shepherds and peasants.  It is said – only half in jest - that the best cookbook from La Mancha is Cervantes’ “Don Quixote”! Wheat and grains are dominant, used in bread, soups, gazpacho, mijas, porridge etc.

One of the ubiquitous ingredients in Manchego cuisine is garlic, which is integral to many regional dishes, including its signature soup. Sopa de Ajo (garlic soup) is a wonderfully rustic bread soup spiked with sliced garlic, paprika, and ham. If that wasn't enough to get your attention, it's also topped with eggs poached in a fragrant, brick-red broth. It's like a steaming bowl of breakfast-for-dinner.


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a Tempranillo


100g Ham, diced

8 Cloves garlic, thinly sliced

4 Large eggs

6 Cups cubed baguette

6 Cups chicken stock

¼ Cup olive oil, plus 1 Tbsp. extra

¼ Cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnishing

1 ½ Tsp. smoked paprika

A pinch of Cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste


  • Pre-heat your oven to 175°C.
  • Line a baking sheet with tin foil.
  • Spread the bread over the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with 1 Tbsp. olive oil.
  • Stir gently to coat the bread.
  • Bake until crispy and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Heat the remaining olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat.
  • Cook the garlic in the hot oil until just golden, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the ham and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute.
  • Add the paprika and cook for another minute.
  • Pour the bread into the pot and toss to coat it with the hot oil mixture.
  • Pour the chicken broth into bread mixture and add the Cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper and stir it all in.
  • Bring to the boil, reduce heat to medium, and stir in the parsley.
  • Crack each egg into a small bowl or cup.
  • Make 4 depressions in the bread floating on top of the soup with a spoon.
  • Slowly pour an egg into each depression.
  • Cover the pot with a lid and cook until the egg whites are firm and yolks are thick but not hard, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls and spoon an egg on top of each.
  • Sprinkle with some of the remaining chopped parsley.


"Do not eat garlic or onions; for their smell will reveal that you are a peasant." -  Don Quixote.


Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup: you can eat it with a fork!

“If it was raining soup, the Irish would go out with forks.” - Brendan Behan.


For a relatively small nation, the Irish have managed to capture a disproportionate amount of the world’s attention. Their incredibly sad history certainly played its part, but would not have been as well publicised were it not for the eloquence of the Irish. The Irish have always been a nation of bards, actors, poets and writers, and latterly they have produced some outstanding songwriters too. There is no doubt that the island’s long and brutal subjugation by Anglo-Saxons contributed to its people’s complex persona; in turn maudlin and jolly.  

Unlike the Irish people, their food is uncomplicated. Most cooking is done without herbs or spices -   except for salt and pepper – and dishes are usually served without sauce or gravy. Because they were economically oppressed for centuries, the Irish had to learn to make do without much meat and the staples of the Irish diet have traditionally been potatoes, cereals (especially oats), and dairy products. Potatoes still feature in most Irish meals, with boxty (potato scones, similar to or muffins), a specialty in the northern counties. Elsewhere whole wheat soda bread is widely eaten.

Irish stew (consisting of mutton, onion and potato) has been recognized as the national dish for at least two centuries. Greater prosperity has led to an increase in the consumption of meat and vegetables, and today a typical Irish dinner is likely to consist of potatoes (cooked whole), cabbage and meat. Apart from mutton, two other meats are ubiquitous in Irish cuisine: smoked pork and corned beef. Irish soups are thick, hearty, and filling, with potatoes, cabbage and various meats being common ingredients. One of the best-known is Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup, which is widely associated with St Patrick’s Day dinners.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best with a pint of Guinness


700g Corned beef, chopped

3 Ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

3 Carrots, grated

1 Small Savoy cabbage - quartered, cored and shredded

1 Large onion, sliced

4 Celery stalks with leafy tops, thinly sliced crosswise

1 bay leaf

1l Chicken broth

340ml Guinness

¾ Cup white rice

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, plus more for seasoning

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Crispy bread to pass around the table


  • Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion, celery, carrots and bay leaf and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Add the cabbage by the handful, season with salt and pepper and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the Guinness and boil until reduced, 1 minute.
  • Stir in the chicken broth, tomatoes and the 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce.
  • Add the corned beef and rice. Bring the soup to the boil, then simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and more Worcestershire sauce
  • Serve in shallow bowls, accompanied by chunks of the bread.


“Every St. Patrick's Day every Irishman goes out to find another Irishman to make a speech to.” - Shane Leslie.


Mulligatawny Soup: currying favour with the Sahibs

“Oh! One Mulligatawny and, um... what is that right there? Is that Lima bean? Never been a big fan. Um... you know what? Has anyone ever told you you look exactly like Al Pacino? You know, "Scent Of A Woman." Who-ah! Who-ah!” Elaine Benes to the “Soup Nazi” in “Seinfeld”.


Mulligatawny is widely regarded as a quintessentially English soup, but – like other English icons like chicken tikka, kedgeree and Coronation Chicken – it has its origins in South Indian cuisine. The name is derived from a Tamil phrase meaning “pepper water”. The recipe for mulligatawny has varied greatly over the years, and today there is no single authentic version.

What is clear is that the original dish was poor man’s food: it contained no meat and was meant to fill as many bellies as possible with the least possible solid ingredients. A Victorian visitor to Madras (today’s Chennai) noted that the soup eaten by poorer natives contained only a few onions, ghee, tamarind, chillies, garlic, mustard seed, fenugreek, peppercorns, salt, and curry leaves. This mixture would be boiled in a large pot of water for a quarter of an hour, and eaten with a large quantity of boiled rice, and so was a meal in itself.

The colonialists, used to having soup as a first course for dinner, duly instructed their Indian cooks to make them soup. The cooks obliged with a local concoction that approximated soup, a light tonic broth made with spices, chilli peppers, tamarind, and water called molo tunny. To curry favour (sic) with their masters they dressed it up with some vegetables and meat. Over the centuries the soup evolved to what we know today - a creamy curry chicken soup with rice and vegetables. It’s a simple, wholesome soup, and a classic of Anglo-Indian cuisine.


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Rhine Riesling or Viognier


1 Chicken breast fillet, skinless and cubed

2 Celery stalks, chopped

1 Carrot, diced

1 Onion, chopped

½ Apple, cored and chopped

6 Cups chicken broth

½ Cup thick cream, heated

½ Cup rice

¼ Cup butter

1 ½ Tbsp. bread flour

1 ½ Tsp. curry powder

¼ Tsp. dried thyme

Chopped coriander leaf for garnish

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste


  • Sauté the onions, celery, carrot, in the butter in a large soup pot.
  • Add the flour and curry, and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Add the chicken stock, mix well, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Add the apple, rice, chicken, salt, pepper, and thyme. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until rice is done.
  • Serve with dollops of hot cream, and sprinkle with the chopped coriander.


“Memories are like mulligatawny soup in a cheap restaurant. It is best not to stir them.” - P. G. Wodehouse.


Mussels are the original rock stars

Do you think we'll be back in time for La Soupe?

A boatload of garlic in L'Isle sur la Sorgue

There's something funny about those onion sellers...

Not Bread Soup again!

Hessische Brotsuppe: simple, nutritious & delicious

“Bread is the king of the table and all else is merely the court that surrounds the king. The countries are the soup, the meat, the vegetables, the salad but bread is king.” -
Louis Bromfield.


Germany is a relatively young nation state compared to say France, Spain or Russia. Until the 1860s it was a loose collection of small duchies and principalities aligned with either Catholic Austria or Protestant Prussia. German cuisine reflects this heterogeneity: there are endless variations from region to region. Soup is one common denominator: all over Germany, soups are a popular and important food, and many Germans eat soup at least once a week. Unlike many others, Germans are as likely to have it as a main course as a first course.

True to their industrious nature, Germans view soup as a convenient source of nourishment, and generally pack in as much nutrition as they can. The importance of soup in the diet of German soldiers who fought their country’s wars can be seen in the soup tins combat soldiers wore on their hips. Legumes and lentils are used in several German soups, as are dumplings and bread. Common German soups include oxtail, beef or chicken broth with noodles, dumplings, or rice, as well as goulash, split pea or cream of asparagus.

Soup containing bread is found in a number of regions, with the best known hailing from Bavaria, the Saarland and Hesse. The soups of the first two of these Länder – probably due to their proximity to France - are relatively rich and elaborate by Teutonic standards. To me, Hessische Brotsuppe represents the essence of utilitarian cooking.   


150g Ham, thinly sliced and cut into postage stamp-sized pieces

50g Emmenthaler Cheese

60g Butter

6 Slices sturdy white or whole wheat bread, cubed

2 Egg yolks

1 Bunch parsley, chopped

3 Cups beef stock

½ Cup fresh cream


  • Melt half the butter in a deep saucepan and gently fry 3/4 of the bread cubes.
  • Pour in the beef broth, bring to the boil and beat with a whisk until smooth.
  • Beat together the cream, cheese and egg yolk with a whisk and add to the soup. Stir until both sets of ingredients are fully incorporated.
  • Melt the rest of the butter in a frying pan and fry the rest of the bread cubes until golden brown.
  • Ladle the soup into individual bowls and sprinkle with the ham, parsley and the fried bread cubes.


“It is impossible to think of any good meal, no matter how plain or elegant, without soup or bread in it.” – MFK Fisher.


French Onion Soup: it causes smiles, not tears

“Onion soup sustains. The process of making it is somewhat like the process of learning to love. It requires commitment, extraordinary effort, time, and will make you cry.” – Ronni Lundy.


I ate my first bowl of French Onion Soup, aka Soupe à l'oignon Gratinée, in a bistrot across the street from the Sacre Coeur in Paris on a cold, wet day much like today, except that day was in early spring and this one high summer! Still, “’n Boer maak ‘n plan” and early this morning I started looking at a number of my favourite comfort food recipes with a view to deciding what to make for lunch. In the end Madras Lamb Curry won, but not by much – the soup from Montmartre finished a strong second!

French onion soup is based on meat stock and onions, and usually served topped with croutons and cheese. Although ancient in origin, the dish underwent a resurgence of popularity in the 1960s when the advent of TV cookery shows led to an upsurge in the popularity of French cooking. Onion soups have been popular at least as far back as Roman times. Throughout history, they were seen as food for poor people, as onions were plentiful and easy to grow. The modern version of this soup originated in Paris just before the Revolution. Classical recipes generally specify that the onions should be cooked slowly, so that they become caramelised.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a Cinsaut or Grenache (or a Fino Sherry, on a really cold day)


4 Large onions, sliced

3 Garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ Cup unsalted butter

3 Tbsp. cake flour

2 Bay leaves

2 Fresh thyme sprigs

1.5l Veal or beef stock

375ml Dry red wine

1 Baguette, sliced

250g Gruyère cheese, grated

Coarse sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper


  • Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-low heat.
  • Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and a pinch each of salt and pepper, and cook gently until the onions are very soft and caramelised, about 25 minutes.
  • Add the wine, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes.
  • Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
  • Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir.
  • Turn the heat down to low so the flour doesn't burn.
  • Cook, stirring, for another 10 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste.
  • Add the stock, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes more.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • When the soup is nearly ready, preheat your oven’s grill.
  • Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  • Sprinkle the slices with the Gruyere and grill until bubbly and golden brown.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls and float several of the Gruyere croutons on top.


“Good intentions alone are not enough. They’ve never put an onion in the soup yet.” – Sonya Levien.


Soupe au Pistou: a taste of the Provençal summer sun

“When the Good Lord begins to doubt the world, He reminds Himself that He created Provence.” – Frederic Mistral.


I love Provence: its ancient towns, its rugged landscape, its lavender fields, the cheerful song of the Cigal and above all its sun. You can taste the Provençal sun in the region’s fruit and vegetables; especially in the famous melons of Cavaillon and in the vegetables that make Soupe au pistou the king of summer soups. At the heart of this wonderful soup is pistou, an olive oil and basil-based sauce that closely resembles the better-known pesto of Liguria. The key difference is the absence of pine nuts from the former.

There is only one way to make true pistou--by hand. Tear the basil leaves into pieces first, then grind the leaves against the side of a mortar with a pestle to puree them into a silky, creamy sauce. Like its Italian cousin, pistou can be served as either an aromatic ingredient in soups and sauces, or as an accompaniment to grilled meats, poultry, fish and vegetables.

Soupe au pistou is like a Provençal version of Minestrone. It is a hearty vegetable soup made with dried beans, summer vegetables like zucchini and tomatoes, potatoes, herbs and small shapes of pasta. The pistou gets stirred in at the end. Unlike many other soups, this one is delicious served hot or at room temperature. The soup and the pistou can be made in advance: prepare them broth and refrigerate overnight, then reheat the broth gently and finish by adding the pasta and serving as explained below.


Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 2 ½ hours 

Serves 8

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Rosé


For the pistou:

4 Cups basil leaves, torn into pieces

1 Cup Mimolette or Emmenthal cheese, finely grated

¼ Cup plum tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 Tbsp. garlic, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 Tsp. coarse salt

For the soup:

1 Cup dried white beans (preferably Cannellini), soaked in cold water overnight and drained

1 Cup small shaped pasta, such as Farfalline (small bow ties), Conchiglie (shells) or Ditalini (little thimbles)

3 Medium plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

2 Medium Mediterranean potatoes, peeled and halved

4 Small zucchini, cut into 1 cm roundels

400 g Green beans, cut into 1 cm lengths

1 Medium onion, coarsely chopped

1 Small onion, halved

1 Small fennel bulb, cored and coarsely chopped

4 Garlic cloves, 2 whole and 2 crushed

50g Pancetta, sliced

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

2 Bay leaves

2 l Water

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Basil sprigs, for garnish


  • In a large mortar, pound the garlic and the salt to a paste.
  • Add the basil by the handful and grind the leaves against the side of the mortar until almost smooth.
  • Stir in the tomatoes, then gradually stir in the olive oil until it is fully incorporated.
  • Stir in the cheese and refrigerate until required.
  • Place the drained white beans, pancetta, halved onion, whole garlic cloves and bay leaves in a medium saucepan.
  • Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan and simmer until the beans are tender, about 90 minutes.
  • Discard the pancetta, onion, garlic and bay leaves.
  • Meanwhile, in a large, heavy pot, heat the olive oil.
  • Add the fennel, potatoes, chopped onion and smashed garlic.
  • Cover the pot and cook the vegetables over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the fennel and onion are softened, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the rest of the of water and gradually bring the mixture to the boil.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Add the zucchini and green beans to the pot and simmer for a further 20 minutes.
  • Mash the potatoes against the side of the pot using a large fork; the potatoes will thicken the soup.
  • Add the diced tomatoes and the white beans and their cooking liquid and simmer the soup over moderately low heat for 10 minutes.
  • While the soup is on the boil, melt the butter in a small pan.
  • Add the pasta and cook over moderate heat until golden brown, about 4 minutes.
  • Stir the pasta into the soup and simmer for 1 minute.
  • Cover, remove from the heat and let stand until the pasta is tender, about 25 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Scoop the chilled pistou into a large soup tureen.
  • Gradually stir in some of the liquid from the soup, then pour in the rest of the soup and stir well.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with basil sprigs and serve.


“What does Bernie Sanders eat with his pasta? Communist Manipesto!” – Stephen Colbert.


Vegetable Soup: Beau Geste would have killed for it...

“I think of New York as a puree and the rest of the United States as vegetable soup.” – Spalding Gray.


Soup is the Cinderella of most modern kitchens. At best it is regarded as comfort food, and at worst something to be served to hospital patients and inmates of old age homes. This lowly status is a fairly recent phenomenon; for millennia it was a staple food to most of mankind. Evidence of the existence of soup can be found as far back as about 20,000 BC. Boiling became the predominant cooking technique with the invention of clay pots (which were both watertight and fire proof). So desirable was a pot of lentil soup that it changed the history of the Old Testament!

The etymology of the word “soup” shows just how important it was in the diet of our ancestors.  It is derived from the French soupe ("soup" or "broth"), which in turn comes from the Vulgar Latin suppa ("bread soaked in broth"). Suppa was also the root of the Germanic word sop - a piece of bread used to soak up soup or stew. Soup’s importance as an easily digested, nourishing dish is also recognised in the word soupe restaurant ("restoring broth") which was first used in France in the 16th Century, to refer to a highly concentrated, inexpensive soup. It was sold by street vendors, and was advertised as a remedy for physical exhaustion. In 1765, a Parisian entrepreneur opened a shop specialising in such soups, prompting the use of the modern word “restaurant” for eating establishments.

Today there are literally thousands of recognised soup recipes – and countless soup-like dishes resulting from boiling together whatever is available. I have a soft spot for soups made in the spirit of the original soupe restaurant, which combine meat or fish with lots of wholesome vegetables. This is the food that fuelled the indomitable legionnaires of the French Foreign Legion, so much so that lunch was officially referred to as La Soupe. The following recipe will leave you ready to go and defend Fort Zinderneuf!


Preparation time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a slightly chilled Rosé


2 Cups potatoes, peeled and diced

2 Cups Italian plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

2 Cups leek whites, chopped

2 Cups carrots, peeled and chopped into roundels

2 Cups fresh green beans, chopped into 2 cm-long pieces

1 Cup fresh sweetcorn kernels

2 Tbsp. garlic, crushed

2 Tbsp. celery, chopped

2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped

1 L Chicken stock

4 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Salt and black pepper for seasoning


  • Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in large, heavy-bottomed pot.
  • Once hot, add the leeks, garlic, and a pinch of salt and sweat until they begin to soften, approximately 7 to 8 minutes.
  • Add the carrots, potatoes, celery and green beans and continue to cook for another 4 – 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a simmer.
  • Once simmering, add the tomatoes, corn kernels, and pepper.
  • Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and add the parsley and lemon juice.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve immediately, accompanied by crusty baguette or ciabatta.


“Soup is a lot like a family. Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavour.” - Marge Kennedy.


Noordbaai Mussel Soup

“There was an Old Person of Brussels, who lived upon Brandy & Mussels; when he rushed through the town, he knocked most people down, which distressed all the people of Brussels.” – Edward Lear.


Four species of rock mussels are found along the South African coast, of which two - the indigenous Black mussel (Choromytilus meridionalis) and the Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis) – are of commercial value. Rock mussels are among our tastiest sea foods, but need to be handled with the greatest of care. Because they filter particles from the surrounding sea water, they collect and retain pollutants like effluent and the deadly “red tide” algae in their flesh. Rather be safe than sorry: call the Red Tide Alert desk in Cape Town (021) 4394380 or (021) 4023368 before harvesting and eating mussels. If it is safe to collect mussels in your vicinity, only pick mussels near the low-water mark (i.e. that have been continually submerged).

Wash the mussels in cold water to remove exterior sand. Discard any mussels that are not completely closed or with broken shells. Scrub them with a strong brush to remove barnacles and pull out the beard. Finally, leave them immersed in fresh water for half an hour. Fresh water irritates them, and causes them to eject any sand trapped inside the shells. To open the mussels, simmer them in some chicken stock for a few minutes, and as soon as the shells open remove the meat. Again discard any mussels that do not open. They are now ready for eating as is or in a recipe such as my personal favourite, mussel soup.


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 4-6

Tastes best accompanied by a well-chilled Pinot Gris


300g Black mussels, removed from their shells

300g Gurnard fillets (or any other firm white fish), cubed

125g Rindless streaky bacon, roughly chopped

2 Medium onions, chopped

2 Medium potatoes, peeled and diced

1 Red bell pepper, chopped

25ml Fresh parsley, chopped

2 Bay leaves

25ml Fresh tarragon, chopped

1l Fish stock

1 Tbsp. butter

250ml Crème Frâiche

250ml Full cream milk

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Fry the bacon gently in the butter until it starts to crisp up.
  • Add the onions and potatoes.
  • Cook for about 5 minutes, but do not brown.
  • Add the fish stock and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Add the fish fillets, parsley, bay leaves, tarragon and the red pepper.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Finally, add the mussels, the milk and the cream.
  • Bring to the boil while stirring continually and serve immediately.


“Sometimes I feel young, and at other times I feel like a ship whose sides are covered by layers of mussels and barnacles.” – John Darniell. 


He looks a bit crabby to me...

A future CA (SA)?

You can split peas, but you can't pee ham...

Only 250ml of wine?

A quick game of squash

Butternut soup: hasty tasty

“I find that vegetables like butternut squash, which I feel unexcited about as a side dish, I'm thrilled to eat in a soup.” – Cynthia Nixon.


I must confess I am not exactly Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater. As a child I overdosed on pumpkin and tomato, and half a century later I still eat them reluctantly. This recipe, however, is one which I am happy to have on a chilly winter’s evening.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 35 Minutes

Serves 6 - 8


1 kg Pre-cut butternut squash (if using fresh squash, you'll need one large squash or 7-8 cups cubed)

1 Red bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 Medium onion, roughly chopped

3 Cloves garlic, crushed

2 l Water

200 ml Double cream

2 Tbsp. sugar, plus extra if needed

1 Tbsp. salt

Fresh thyme sprigs, for garnish (optional)


  • Combine all of the ingredients except for the heavy cream in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 35 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, and purée the soup until smooth with a hand-held blender,.
  • Stir in the cream and bring the soup back to a simmer.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning - depending on the sweetness of the vegetables, you may need up to a tablespoon more sugar.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the thyme sprigs, if desired.
  • If you really feel like splurging, drizzle a small amount of maple syrup over the soup – it’s heavenly!


“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” -  Henry David Thoreau.

Cotriade: there's something fishy about it...

“If it were not for the government, we should have nothing to laugh at in France.” - Nicolas Chamfort.


At some point, most children want to be pirates when they grow up. In Brittany (French: Bretagne), a peninsula in the north-west of France, many did! During France’s many wars against Britain, the French issued Lettres de Corse to privateers, in which the state authorised the captains to raid enemy ships in return for a part of their loot. Harbours like St-Malo, Lorient and Brest were ideally situated to serve as bases for corsairs preying on British ships returning from the East or the Caribbean. In the 1940s, German U-Boats followed in their footsteps, and some of their reinforced concrete “pens” have survived to this day.  

Readers of Asterix will recall that the area was known as Armorica during the Roman occupation of Gaul. Brittany subsequently became an independent Duchy before being absorbed by the Kingdom of France in 1532. Brittany is the homeland of the Breton people, one of the six recognised Celtic nations. Like the Basques further south, the Bretons have retained much of their traditional culture, including its cuisine.

As Brittany is largely surrounded by the Atlantic – with a coastline of 2,800 km - the regional cuisine makes generous use of the fruits de mer: the incomparable oysters from Belon, mussels from Mont-St-Michel, lobsters, flatfish like turbot, flounder and sole, Ormers (Sea-Ears or abalone), Loup de Mer (Sea Bass), Saint-Pierre (John Dory or St Peter’s Fish) and Cabillaud (Cod). The seafood is traditionally seasoned with Fleur du Sel (flower salt) from Guérande and washed down with fruity Muscadet wine from the lower Loire.

Although the locals are justifiably proud of the famous Plateau de Fruits de Mer (Seafood Platter) I regard Cotriade (Kaoteriad in Breton) as the quintessential Breton seafood dish. Known as “Brittany Fish Stew” in the UK, it is a hearty thick soup made with different kinds of fish, as well as leeks and potatoes. Unlike the more glamorous Bouillabaisse, it does not contain shellfish. It is traditionally served by pouring it over toasted baguette. Try it out this winter!


Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc


1 kg Kingklip, Rock Cod or Gurnard, skinned and filleted

500 g Young potatoes

4 Tomatoes

4 Leeks

1 Celery stalk

2 Tbsp. fresh cream

1 Tbsp. Flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 Bay leaves

1 Sprig fresh thyme

1 Large egg yolk

750 ml Water

250 ml Dry white wine

1 Tsp. salt

1 Tsp. turmeric

½ Tsp. white pepper


  • Wash the leeks thoroughly, and cut the whites into 2 cm-wide roundels.
  • Peel the potatoes, and cut them into matchbox-sized chunks.
  • Skin and de-seed the tomatoes.
  • Chop the celery into 2 cm-wide pieces.
  • Put the above ingredients into a soup pot, along with the water. Add the salt, pepper, turmeric, thyme, and bay leaf.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • Discard the thyme and the bay leaf.
  • Cut the fish into bite-sized chunks.
  • Add the fish and wine to the vegetables and broth, and simmer this over very low heat for a further 15 minutes.
  • Beat the egg yolk with the cream in a bowl.
  • Add about 4 Tbsp. of the broth to this, mix it thoroughly, and add to the broth in the soup pot.
  • Keep the soup gently simmering over very low heat, and stir until it thickens somewhat. Make sure it never boils.
  • Serve with slices of baguette.


“I was in the invasion of Normandy in Southern France.” – Yogi Berra.


Pea and Ham Soup

“One thing my pea plants taught me: always do science with things you can make into a soup.” – Gregor Mendel.


This hearty, nourishing winter soup will always remind me of my childhood in the Sabie district, where "pea soup fog" was as common as the 'flu in winter. On the way home at night my father drove past our turn-off on a few occasions because of the dense mist. Pea and Ham Soup is just what you need to perk you up on such nights.


Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 4


500 g Frozen petits pois (young peas)

250 g Ham or hock, cubed or thickly sliced

1 Onion, chopped

1 Potato, peeled and finely chopped

1l Chicken or vegetable stock

A knob of butter

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper


  • Heat the butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot.
  • When lightly foaming, add the onions and gently cook them until softened, but not coloured.
  • Add the potato and stir to coat it in the butter, then pour in the stock.
  • Cook over medium heat until the potato has softened. This should take no more than 20 minutes.
  • Add the peas and bring the soup back to the boil.
  • Cook for another 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and blend until smooth.
  • Stir in the ham and serve with croutons or slices of fresh baguette.


“Men! You can't even see what is put right on the table before you. If it was raining soup you'd be out there with a fork.” – Robin Hobb.


Boontjiesop: winter warmer par excellence

“To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night, all you really need is a pot of bean soup.” – Laurie Colwin.


Most South African soups are meant to be nourishing, filling meals – no dainty chilled gazpachos or clear consommés made it into the Boerekos lexicon! Our soups are typically very thick, and contain a cut of meat or animal bone to give them a rich flavour. Boontjiesop (bean soup) is something most of us grew up with. Every family had an aunt, mom or gran who was famous for her soup.  I still have fond memories of my mother patiently creating her peerless bean soup on our wood-fired Dover stove. In my view a hearty soup needs good ingredients, a loving touch and lots of time  - low and slow is the way to do it! 

I believe that beef and sugar beans are one of those proverbial marriages made in heaven. The other essential ingredient - bone marrow - may not be popular with the Heart Foundation, but boy does it add oomph to a bean soup! Do yourself a favour and treat your loved ones to this one on a cold night.


Preparation time: 12 hours (to soak the beans) + 30 minutes

Cooking time: 4 hours

Serves 6 – 8

Tastes best accompanied by a Shiraz or Tinta Barroca


2 Large beef marrow bones.

450 g Beef chuck, bone in

250g Dried sugar beans, soaked overnight in fresh water

3 Large carrots, grated roughly

1 Large onion, chopped

1 Large leek, finely chopped

1 Celery stalk, chopped

1 Small red chilli, chopped. Keep the seeds

2 Bay leaves

2 Tbsp. Cajun or Barbecue spice

2 Beef stock cubes

1 Vegetable stock cube

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 litres of boiled water

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper


  • Soak the beans overnight in a jug of fresh cold water. Replace the water several times. 
  • Remove any impurities and dodgy beans.
  • Pour the olive oil into a hot saucepan, pot or wok large enough to hold the meat and bones.
  • Season the onion, meat and marrow bones with the Cajun spice and sauté, until well nicely browned.
  • Transfer into a large pot, along with all the remaining ingredients, except the stock or salt. These should only be added during the final stages of cooking as the salt will stop the beans from softening.
  • Cook over medium heat for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Scoop off any scum that may appear on the surface with a slotted spoon.
  • After 3 hours, remove the marrow bones and bay leaves.
  • Remove the chuck and allow it to cool. Debone it and put the meat back in the soup.
  • Ensure that all the marrow has cooked out of the bones; if not, scrape it out with a teaspoon.
  • Transfer about 500 ml of the soup to a blender, blend until smooth and return to the pot. Alternatively, blitz the soup in the pot with a hand blender for about 10 seconds.
  • Add the stock cubes and cook for another hour over low heat, still stirring once in a while.
  • After the last hour, check the seasoning.
  • Serve with slices of fresh crusty bread. In our family, seasoning with Worcestershire sauce is an institution.


“Soup is a lot like family. Each ingredient enhances the others, each batch has its own characteristics, and it needs to simmer for a long time to reach full flavour.” – Marge Kennedy. 

Avocado and Crab Soup

“The cucumber and tomato are both fruit; the avocado is a nut. To help with the dietary requirements of vegetarians, on the first Tuesday of each month chicken will officially be a vegetable.” – Jasper Fforde.   

Having grown up in the Lowveld, I just adore avocado. With summer upon us, they are in season and I use every opportunity to enjoy avo in various ways. The reason aficionados are so passionate about this fruity nut is its rich umami taste; not sweet or sour, salty or hot, but savoury. This makes avocado a great ingredient in countless recipes – it enhances the overall effect without overwhelming other elements. This cool summer soup combines the sweet taste of crab meat with the savouriness of ripe avocado.


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Chilling time: 1 hour (15 minutes + 45 minutes)

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Sauvignon Blanc or unwooded Chardonnay


½ Cup cooked or tinned white crab meat

2 Ripe Hass avocados

1 Celery stalk, diced

1 Tsp.lemon zest, finely grated

½ Tbsp.chervil, chopped

1 Cup vegetable stock

2 Tbsp.crème fraîche

1 Tbsp.fresh lime juice

Salt, freshly-ground black pepper and Tabasco


  • Mix the crab meat, celery, chervil and lemon zest in a bowl.
  • Cover and chill the crab mixture.
  • Halve and pit avocados, and scoop the flesh into a blender.
  • Add the vegetable stock, crème fraîche, lime juice, salt, and 1 ¼ cups water.
  • Purée until smooth. Season the soup to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco.
  • Chill it for 45 minutes.
  • Divide the soup among 4 bowls.
  • Spoon the crab salad into the centre of each bowl.

“I love things that are indescribable, like the taste of avocado or the smell of gardenias.” – Barbara Streisand.

Tarator is a summer treat in Bulgaria

I bet he's cracked a few mussels over the years

My brother, this one is undersize...

Miso soup features on most Japanese menus

A hot cook making cold soup

Gazpacho: the coolest soup around

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a home-grown tomato.” – Lewis Gizzard.

With a heat wave still suffocating much of our country, chilled foods are worth their weight in gold. Few dishes are better suited to this purpose than gazpacho, the iconic Andalucian chilled tomato soup.  Gazpacho has been widely eaten all over Spain and neighbouring Portugal - particularly during the hot summers – for more than a thousand years, because it is refreshing and cool.

Gazpacho has ancient roots. It is said to have its origins during the Moorish reign over most of the Iberian Peninsula, when the Arabs introduced the locals to a soup of bread, olive oil, water and garlic. The addition of tomatoes and vinegar laid the basis for modern-day gazpacho. Nowadays there are myriad variations, some of which omit the traditional tomatoes and bread. Popular alternatives include avocado, watermelon, grapes and cucumber. I have it on good authority that my recipe is as near as dammit to the traditional one.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Refrigeration time: 4 hours

Serves 6


1 kg Ripe Roma tomatoes

1 Medium sized cucumber, around 18 – 20 cm long

1 Green bell pepper

1 Shallot or ½ white onion

1 Garlic clove, chopped

1 Pimiento or Paprika chilli

½ Tsp. ground cumin

1 Tsp. salt

4 Tbsp. olive oil

3 Tbsp. Sherry vinegar

A 15 cm – long chunk of baguette

6 Garden mint tops for garnish


  • Rinse the tomatoes, remove the stems and leaves and cut the tomatoes into quarters.
  • Peel the garlic clove.
  • Peel the onion and cut it into quarters.
  • Rinse the pepper, cut it in half and remove the seeds before chopping it up.
  • Repeat this process with the chilli.
  • Peel the cucumber and cut it into chunks.
  • Soak the bread briefly in a bowl of water. Once soaked, discard the water and squeeze most of the water out of the soaked bread. Set it aside.
  • Place the tomatoes, the garlic, onion, pepper, cucumber, chilli and bread in a blender or food processor.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and blend it at top speed. Continue until there are no solid pieces left, and the gazpacho is creamy and has developed some body.
  • Pour it into a bowl and refrigerate to just above freezing point; the chillier the better.
  • Serve it in bowls, garnished with the mint, as the first course on a hot summer’s day. Your guests will thank you for it!
 “Of the plants, tomatoes seem the most human; eager and fragile and prone to rot.” – John Updike.

Ton-jiru (miso soup with pork and vegetables)

“I always have Dashi in my refrigerator. It is the all-mighty Japanese ingredient.” – Masaharu Morimoto.

Soup is one of the vital components of a Japanese meal, and is usually served after the main courses, along with rice and pickles. Dashi, or soup stock, forms the base for almost all of Japanese cooking, and imparts umami (the fifth taste, meaning "savoury" or "meaty") to anything it graces. Luckily, it is very easy to make and fills the house with a wonderful aroma. Miso Soup is one of the most widely-eaten soups, and combines dashi with miso – a savoury pasta made by fermenting salted soya beans via the action of a fungus, Aspergillus oryzae. Miso is also used in numerous sauces and spreads and in the pickling of vegetables or meats.

Miso soup is made of dashi and white miso, red miso, or a combination of the two, which is known as awase miso. Miso soup is easy to make and wonderfully versatile. It can be made with whatever seasonal vegetables, mushrooms, tofu, meat or seafood is at hand. Children love its salty and rich flavour, and when tofu and rice are added, makes a healthy and easily digestible meal for toddlers. Some of the myriad ingredients often used in miso soup include: tofu, carrots, potatoes, onion, okra, Shimeji and Enoki mushrooms and Asari Clams. The recipe below is simple, yet hearty. It is usually served with tonkatsu (fried pork cutlets). The name Ton-jiru literally means “pork soup”. It is like regular miso soup on steroids!


Preparation time:

Cooking time:

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by Sake or a dry white wine


250 g Streaky pork belly, cut into bite-sized morsels

6 Scallions (salad onions)

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

6 Cups dashi

1 Medium carrot, cut into thin roundels

1 Small potato, peeled and diced 

1 Cup Shimeji mushrooms, roots cut off & mushrooms separated

1 Clove garlic, finely chopped

A 2 cm-long piece of fresh ginger, grated

¼ Cup Sake

¼ Cup awase miso


  • Heat the sesame oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.  
  • When the oil is hot, add the pork.  Stir-fry the pork for about 2 minutes until cooked. 
  • Add the potato, carrot, mushrooms, ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring, for another 2 - 3 minutes so the oil coats all of the ingredients.  
  • Add the sake and let the alcohol cook off for a minute.
  • Add the dashi. When it begins boiling, skim any scum that appears on the surface.  
  • Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through, but not too soft.  
  • Remove the knob of ginger.  
  • Add the miso, using a small whisk to dissolve the miso.  
  • When fully amalgamated, serve hot, with tonkatsu and pickled cabbage.

“I’ve never really wanted to go to Japan, simply because I don’t like eating fish. And I know it’s very popular over there in Africa.” – Britney Spears.


Crayfish Bisque

“Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy crawfish (sic), which is kind of the same thing.” – Mark Twain.

A bisque is a classic French dish; a thick, creamy soup based on the flesh of crustaceans. In France, the noble Homard (lobster) is first choice, but Langouste (spiny lobster), Ecrevisses (freshwater crayfish) and Crevettes (prawns) are also often used. Because of the skulduggery aimed at ripping naïve tourists off, I have learnt to ask our waiters to show me the uncooked creature before cooking the bisque. I refuse to pay a king’s ransom for lobster and then eat freshwater crayfish. While this is by no means a fool-proof tactic, it does show respectable restaurateurs that they are dealing with informed guests!

Summer is crayfish season in the Western Cape, so if you can get your hands on one, you can treat your significant other to this decadent dish over the Festive Season or on Valentine’s Day.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 2

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Colombard


225 g Crayfish tail meat

3 Tbsp. button mushrooms, chopped

2 Tbsp. shallots, chopped

2 Tbsp. celery, chopped

2 Tbsp. carrot, grated

400ml Seafood or chicken stock

200ml Milk

200ml Cream

125ml Dry white wine

3 tablespoons butter

A bit of cooked and flaked crayfish tail meat to garnish two plates

1 Tbsp. French chives, chopped

A pinch of Cayenne pepper

A pinch of salt


  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • Add the mushrooms, onion, celery, and carrot.
  • Cook, stirring continually, until tender.
  • Stir in the stock, and season with salt and Cayenne pepper.
  • Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Pour the vegetable and broth mixture into a blender, and add ¼ cup of the crayfish meat.
  • Cover, and process until smooth.
  • Return the mixture to the saucepan, and stir in the milk, cream, white wine, and remaining crayfish.
  • Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until thickened.
  • Check the seasoning.
  • Dish up, and garnish with the flaked crayfish meat and chives.

“It’s all about perspective. To the passengers, the sinking of the Titanic was a disaster. To the lobsters in the kitchen it was divine deliverance.” – Bob Hope.

Poenskopsop (Black Steenbras Soup)

“How foolish is man to believe that abstaining from flesh, and eating fish, which is so much more delicate and delicious, constitutes fasting.” – Napoleon Bonaparte.

The Black Steenbras (Cymatoceps nasutus)is a brute of a fish found along rocky shores and also on deep-water reefs.  In Afrikaans it is known as a “Biskop” (from the Dutch “Beestkop”) or “Poenskop”. It has huge, dog-like teeth that it uses to feed on all manner of molluscs and crabs. These teeth are so formidable that fisherman’s hooks caught between them have bent and broken – a fate I suffered once in Struisbaai. Capable of reaching a weight of more than 50kg, these fish are the front row forwards of the Sparidae family. They occur between Cape Point and Sodwana Bay, but its “home range” is rocky parts of the coast between Hermanus and Plettenberg Bay.

Young Poenskop, up to about 5kg, are very tasty fish with firm flesh and superb flavour.  The flesh of larger ones, while still full of flavour, is very tough. If it is at all possible to release a big one alive, please do so. The head of a big Poenskop is considered a delicacy by Southern Cape folk. The head is slowly oven-baked, and contains a lot of delicate morsels; the tongue and cheeks being the most popular. It also makes one of the best fish soups you’ll find anywhere.


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled Chenin Blanc or Colombard


1 Kg Poenskop head, skeleton and other off-cuts. Ensure the gill rakers are removed – they make the soup bitter

1 Carrot, peeled and cut into roundels

1 Brown onion, chopped

200 g Tinned Roma tomato, with juice

1 Celery stalk, chopped

3 Cloves garlic, crushed

2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped

2 Tsp. thyme leaves

1 Bay leaf

1 Tsp. fennel seeds

½ Tsp. tomato puree

½ Tsp. turmeric

1 Cup crisp dry white wine


  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot, and sauté the chopped onion, carrot, celery and fennel seeds for about five minutes.
  • Add the bay leaf, thyme, parsley, garlic and tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Add the turmeric, white wine and tomato puree.  Leave to cook for a few more minutes.
  • Add the fish head and skeleton bones, cover with 1.5l boiling water.
  • Simmer over moderate heat for 20 minutes. Don’t cook it for longer - the soup will develop a bitter taste.
  • Leave overnight to develop the flavours if possible. Otherwise, strain through a sieve and enjoy straight away.
  • Season with salt and pepper, then reheat and serve with toasted slices of baguette spread with garlic mayonnaise.

“Marriage is like deep sea fishing. You never know what you’ve got until you get it in the boat.” – Dick Bothwell.


Tarator (Bulgarian Cucumber and Yoghurt Soup)

 “If it was raining soup, the Irish would rush out with forks.” – Brendan Behan.

South Africa is currently (November 2015) experiencing a catastrophic drought, coupled with a scorching heat wave. Keeping cool has become a continual challenge. The following recipe is a traditional Bulgarian favourite, which is eaten daily during the heat of summer. It is perfect for times like these.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Chilling time: 2 hours

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a chilled dry Riesling or Vinho Verde


1 Large English cucumber

600ml Natural yoghurt

4 Tbsp. scallions, chopped

1 Tbsp. dill tops, chopped

2 Tsp. almonds, crushed

2 Tsp. French chives, chopped

1 Tbsp. Lemon juice

1 Tsp. Olive oil

Olive oil for drizzling

Salt and pepper to season

Italian parsley and dill for garnish


  • Peel the cucumber, then chop it coarsely.
  • Mix with the yoghurt, nuts and herbs in a food blender.
  • Add the lemon juice and olive oil gradually, with the blender at low speed.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Chill the soup well.
  • Drizzle with a little olive oil, garnish with sprigs of parsley and dill, and serve with cracker biscuits.


“Soup is to the meal what the hostess’ smile of welcome is to the party. A prelude to the goodness to come.” – Louis P de Gouy.

Elaine annoys the Soup Nazi

Eating like Rajastan Royals

Formosa Lisboa

Cuisine is when things taste like themselves

Here they like tea parties, not the Tea Party

Chicken Soup: the ultimate comfort food?

“A Jewish woman had two chickens. One got sick, so the woman made chicken soup out of the other one to make it feel better.” – Henry Youngman.

Chicken soup is often referred to as “Jewish Penicillin”. It is the Jewish mother’s cure for sickness, sadness and anxiety. But let’s be clear about this: this belief is not unique to the Children of Israel. My mother used chicken soup in much the same way, and to this day Jakki and I quickly make a pot when one of us gets the ‘flu. Whether or not chicken soup really has restorative properties is a subjective matter. That it is one of the ultimate comfort foods is not in doubt, however. The following recipe has Kosher roots, but I make it like this because it tastes so good!

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 4 hours

Serves 10

Tastes best accompanied by a crisp dry white wine (if you’re a Gentile like me)


1 Large (1.5 kg) chicken, cut into 8 pieces

2 Medium onions, peeled and cut in half

5 Medium carrots, peeled and cut in 5 cm-thick roundels, plus an extra 4 chopped into 5 mm-thick roundels

5 Celery stalks, with leaves, cut in 5 cm pieces, plus 2 extra stalks chopped into 5 mm-thick pieces

5 Medium parsnips, peeled and cut in 5 cm roundels

1 Medium sweet potato, peeled and cut in half

3 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped

450 g Egg noodles (or white long-grain rice)

5 Tsp Kosher salt

1 Tsp freshly ground black pepper


  • Place the chicken in a large, heavy-based pot and cover with cold water; about 5 – 6 litres should do it.
  • Bring to the boil, skimming off any froth from time to time.
  • Add the onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, sweet potato and dill, and simmer, partially covered, for 3 hours.
  • Pour the stock through a fine-mesh strainer into large bowl.
  • Reserve the chicken and discard the other solids.
  • Refrigerate the stock until completely cool, then skim all fat from the surface.
  • When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones.
  • Shred the meat, and refrigerate it until ready to use.
  • Bring the stock to the boil in the pot over moderately high heat.
  • Add the salt, pepper, and noodles.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 4 minutes.
  • Add the carrots and celery, and continue simmering until the noodles are tender.
  • Add the shredded chicken and simmer until heated through.
  • Serve piping hot.

In Jewish homes, the soup is traditionally served with Matzo balls. I personally like to serve it with plain croutons.

“The only thing chicken about Israel is their soup.” – Bob Hope.

Tamatar Shorba: the Raja of tomato soups

"I feed on good soup, not beautiful language.” – Molière.

 Earlier this week I had the honour of hosting a business lunch for some extremely wealthy South Africans. Since one of the topics for discussion was the emergence of India as an investment destination, we had decided to serve mainly Indian dishes. The soup was so good that it overshadowed the rest of the meal. I am not particularly fond of tomato soup, but this one was one of the best soups I’ve eaten in my two score and thirteen years. It was the iconic North Indian soup, Tamatar Shorba. It was tart, spicy and contained just enough garlic and coriander leaf to result in multiple layers taste and flavour. Do yourself a huge favour and try it; it makes a wonderful winter warmer, but is equally delicious served cold in summer.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a fruity Riesling or Chenin Blanc

6 Ripe Roma (plum) tomatoes, peeled and chopped.

1 Medium red onion, roughly chopped

3 Large garlic cloves, crushed

1 x 2.5cm-long Ginger piece, peeled and finely chopped 

1 Piece (2 – 3 cm long) of stick cinnamon, broken

2 Tsp sugar

2 Whole cloves

8 Whole peppercorns

3 Small bay leaves

½ Tsp ground garam masala

½ Tsp cayenne pepper

½ Tsp ground nutmeg

75ml Skim milk

2 Tbsp chopped fresh Dhania (coriander) leaves and stems

2 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil

4 Cups of water

Salt to taste

Chopped fresh Dhania, salt and ground black pepper for garnish

  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • In a large saucepan, melt the ghee and add the peppercorns, bay leaves, clove, cinnamon and garam masala.
  • Fry the spices until they begin to release their aroma, being careful not to burn them.
  •  Add the onions and stir.
  • Cook the onions about 5 minutes, until they begin to turn translucent
  • Add the garlic and cook a minute more, until the garlic no longer smells raw.
  • Add the tomatoes.
  • Stir everything together and bring to a boil.
  • Once the mixture begins to boil, turn the heat down and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to break down.
  • Add the boiling water to the tomato mixture and stir in the grated ginger, nutmeg, sugar, chili powder and season with the salt.
  • Allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes before transferring it to a blender. Add the fresh coriander leaves and stems.
  • Blend until the shorba is a very smooth consistency.
  • Add milk, and blend it in.
  • Transfer the smooth mixture to a cooking pot. Bring to a gentle simmer.
  •  Check the seasoning and add extra salt, if necessary.
  • Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with bread sticks or croutons.

“The dinner would have been splendid if the wine had been as cold as the soup, the beef as rare as the service, the brandy as old as the fish, and the maid as willing as the Duchess.” – Winston Churchill.

Caldo Verde: Portuguese Comfort Food

“For each mouth, a different soup.” – Portuguese proverb.

I have always had a soft spot for peasant cooking because it harks back to antiquity, when serving your family a meal was about more than a quick stop at Woolies. As Alexandre Dumaine put it, “Peasant cooking is the basis of the entire culinary art. By this I mean it is composed of honest elements that la grande cuisine only embellishes.” It is organic, seasonal and speaks to the culture and environment of the people who cook and eat it. Few countries in Europe are as traditional as Portugal, where old recipes and customs live on well into the 21st Century. On a bitterly cold winter’s evening like this one, Caldo Verde (“Green Soup”) will warm the cockles of anyone’s heart; whether peasant or nobility.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves 6

Tastes best served with a medium-bodied red wine.

500 g Kale (Cavolo Nero) or cabbage

6 Large potatoes, peeled and diced

½ Chourizo sausage, about 150 g, thinly sliced

2 Large onions, finely chopped

4 Cloves garlic, crushed

1.5l Chicken stock

2 Bay leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning

Paprika and olive oil for dressing

60ml Olive oil

  • Fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil until translucent.
  • Add the chourizo slices.
  • Fry the onions and sausage for a few more minutes and then add the diced potatoes. They will absorb all the flavour from the sausage.
  • Transfer the mixture to a large pot, add the stock, seasoning and bay leaves, and cook until the potatoes are soft.
  • Meanwhile, very chop the kale or cabbage finely.
  • When the potatoes are cooked, mash them into the broth to make a thick base.
  • Blanch the greens in boiling water for one minute to take off any bitterness.
  • Drain the greens, then add to the simmering broth.
  • Add as much cabbage as the broth will support - if you want a hearty soup add loads of greens, or less for a  lighter effect.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Mix the paprika with some olive oil swirl it into the soup.

Serve with chunks of country bread or pao buns.

“An idealist is someone who, on discovering that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make a better soup.” – HL Mencken.

Bouillabaisse: The Pride of Provence

“Bouillabaisse: this incomparable golden soup which embodies and concentrates all the aromas of our shores and which permeates, like an ecstasy, the stomachs of astonished gastronomes.” – Count Curnonsky.

The French have a knack for turning animals regarded as odd or repulsive elsewhere into essential parts of popular dishes – just think of frogs and snails. Bouillabaisse, probably the most famous fish soup in the world, is true to this tradition and is made with cinderellas like rascasse (scorpion fish), monkfish and loup de mer (a Blenny-like fish with large fangs). There is no standard recipe; only generally accepted guidelines. My interpretation of this classic dish entails the following:

Prepation time: 45 minutes.

Cooking time: About 45 minutes.

Serves 6 adults.

Tastes best accompanied by a well-chilled Viognier or dry Rosé.


1 Red bell pepper.

1 Small red chilly pepper, chopped into small pieces.

1 Slice of white bread, with the crust removed.

1 Egg yolk.

2 Garlic cloves.

75 ml Olive oil.


2 Kg firm white fish. This can either be whole small fish or filets with the skin still on – I prefer the latter. Suitable species include gurnard, John Dory, Blacktail, monkfish or any South African red line fish. The local version of rascasse is called Jakopever, and it works just as well.

12 Medium-sized black mussels, preferably live ones. Alternatively use frozen half-shell ones.

6 Plum (Italian) tomatoes.

6 Cups of fish or chicken stock.

1 Onion, chopped.

1 Fennel bulb, sliced.

The zest of 1 orange.

½ Teaspoon of saffron.

A bouquet garni, consisting of thyme, sage, parsley and origanum.

½ Cup of olive oil.

Salt and pepper for seasoning.

Making the Rouille:

  •  Cut the bell pepper in half, trim the seeds and membrane and grill until it blisters. Peel and chop finely.
  • Pound or mix all the ingredients except the bread and oil into a smooth mixture.
  • Drizzle in the oil while stirring continuously.
  • When it reaches the consistency of mayonnaise, refrigerate.
  • Soak the bread in shallow water, then squeeze dry gently between the palms of your hands. Set aside.

Making the Bouillabaisse:

  • If the mussels are live ones, scrub them and pull out their “beards”.
  • If you are using fish filets, cut them into bite-sized morsels.
  • Peel the tomatoes. Chop them, and only retain the fleshy parts.
  • Briefly fry the fennel and onion, until their aromas become pronounced.
  • Add the tomato, and fry for another 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the stock, saffron, zest and the bouquet garni. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Strain the soup, either removing or crushing all solids.
  • Clean the pan, and return the soup. Bring to the boil and season.
  • Simmer the fish in the soup until it flakes easily.
  • Add the mussels, and cook until they open. Discard any that take noticeably longer than the majority.
  • Turn off the heat and serve. I prefer to present the fish separately on a serving platter, with the soup in a bowl of its own.
  • Cut the bread into small squares, and smear with the rouille. 

“What will be the death of me are bouillabaisses… a load of exquisite rubbish which I eat in disproportionate quantities.” – Emile Zola. 

Authentic Boston Clam Chowder

“Clam chowder is rude, rugged; a food of body and substance – like Irish Stew, Scots Haggis or English Steak and Kidney Pie. It is a worthy ration for the men and women of a pioneer race and their offspring.” – Louis P de Gouy.

This dish (along with the lobster roll) is New England on a plate, and will satisfy even those who do not generally like seafood. Think of it as Vichyssoise with clams instead of leeks. My recipe is a derivative of the one used in the Union Oyster House in Boston, the oldest restaurant in North America. Done properly, it should taste creamy up front, with a lingering aftertaste of essence-of-seawater – much like a firm oyster. The chowder is extremely hearty and very filling, and consequently starter portions are served in a cup or mug. A plateful should only be tackled as a main course!

Preparation time: 20 - 30 minutes.

Cooking time: 1 ½ hours.

Serves 6 adults as a starter, or 4 as a main course.

Tastes best accompanied by a perfumed dry white wine with like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or a dry Gewürztraminer.

2 Dozen clams in their shells or 200g clam meat.

½  Cup of dry white wine.

1 Litre of seafood stock. If cleaned clam meat is used instead of whole clams, add another 150 ml of stock.

2 Medium potatoes, peeled and diced.

100g Lean bacon, finely chopped.

10 Shallots (alternatively 2 medium onions), finely chopped.

100g Butter (preferably unsalted).

½  Tablespoon of olive oil.

½ Cup of cake flour.

1 Teaspoon of seafood spice.

½ Teaspoon of nutmeg.

1 Tablespoon of chopped Italian parsley.

1 Litre of half-and-half (50% fresh cream; 50% full cream milk).

Salt, freshly ground black pepper and Tabasco for seasoning.

1 Tablespoon of chopped French chives.

4 Oyster Cracker biscuits (alternatively plain Tuc biscuits) per person.

  • If using fresh whole clams, put them in a large pot or saucepan, and cover the bottom of the pot with the wine and a little bit of fresh water.
  • Place on high heat until the clam shells start opening (normally 5 – 10 minutes).
  • Remove the clams with a slotted spoon and allow to cool down. Retain the liquid in the pot, and pour through a sieve to remove grit or sand.
  • Open the clams with a paring knife – do this over the bowl containing the liquid, so that all clam juice is retained.
  • Remove the flesh and set both the clam meat and liquid aside.
  • In a large pot (3l or more), cook the potato in the stock over medium heat until the dice start disintegrating. If you don’t have clam “juice” as described above, keep 150ml of the stock separate. Set aside the pot.
  • Fry the bacon in the butter and olive oil – stop before it starts crisping.
  • Add the shallots or onions and cook until translucent.
  • Season with the seafood spice, nutmeg and parsley.
  • Sprinkle over the flour and stir it in.
  • Stir in the clam liquid or extra stock.
  • As soon as a smooth paste forms, remove from the heat.
  • Bring the potato and stock to a simmer, and add the clam meat.
  • Gradually add the bacon and shallot mixture, and then the half-and-half.
  • Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Check seasoning. The chowder should ideally not require additional salt, but benefits from some black pepper and a few drops of Tabasco.
  • Dish up and garnish with the chopped chives.
  • Serve with a garden salad on the side.
  • Traditionally, the crackers are crumbled on top of the chowder bit by bit. Do not mix it in – it is supposed to provide a textural contrast to the smooth, creamy chowder.
  • Bon apétit! 

P.S. Boston has its own version of “Bunny Chow”, which simply entails serving the chowder in a hollowed-out bun.

“I have just returned from Boston. It is the only thing to do if you find yourself up there.” – Fred Allen.




Petain's shortlived "homeland"

Cathy Ha thinks Tom Yum is yummy

The inspiration behind Dr Greenspan's metaphor?

I hope she has a fast metabolism...

Experts predict that the wine will be a lttle tart

A Fondue dinner

“Zürich’s Bahnhofstrasse is so clean, one can eat minestrone soup off it.” – James Joyce.

Fondue is often stereotyped as a retro pursuit, straight from the 60s and 70s. I beg to differ. Notwithstanding what the cool kids have to say, I honestly believe that it embodies many of the best elements of a good meal – it can be very healthy (or not), it breaks the ice by bringing people together physically, and (much like eating steamed artichokes) a bouillon fondue can actually be kilojoule-negative (i.e. one expends more energy preparing the food than is gained by eating it).

One of the most enjoyable ways of spending a cold winter’s evening with friends or family is to have an all-fondue dinner party. For starters, cook vegetables, prawns and mussels, cubes of chicken and beef and slices of sausage (we love Bockwurst) in court bouillon. Take a breather, open more full-bodied red wine and move on to a cheese and bread fondue. After another intermission, have a chocolate fondue for dessert!

a)     First course - bouillon

NB. For cooking meats and veggies in a broth, you will need a sturdy copper, cast iron or stainless steel fondue pot, since the heat required is much higher than for the other two courses.

Preparation time: ½ hour.

Cooking time: Up to you!

Enough for 4 - 6 adults.

It is best to have both white and red wine at hand; (say) a well-chilled Sauvignon Blanc and a fruity red like a Merlot.

Raw mushroom halves, baby carrots, broccoli florettes and asparagus tips.

12 Queen prawns, shelled.

12 Large black or greenback mussels.

12 Cubes each (3 cm3) of beef steak (or ostrich filet) and chicken breast.

4 Bockwurst, sliced into 3 cm lengths.

Bouillon: 250 ml water, 150 ml dry white wine, 1 chicken stock cube, 1 bouquet garni, I chopped onion, 2 chopped celery stalks.

Dip: Small bowls of mayonnaise, barbecue sauce and mild mustard sauce.

  • Bring the bouillon to the boil on the stove. Scoop out the solid ingredients with a slotted spoon.
  • Transfer the liquor to the fondue pot, which should be heated by now.
  • The pot should be centrally placed and easily accessible to all. Do not move it once filled with the hot bouillon!
  • Skewer the pieces of raw food with your fondue fork, and tuck in!
  • Once cooked, dip in the sauce of your choice and season.


b)    Second course - cheese

Preparation time: 15 minutes.

Cooking time: Up to you!

Enough for 4 - 6 adults.

This works best with a full-bodied red like a Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon.

2 Cloves of garlic, cut in half.

2 Cups dry white wine.

225 g Shredded Emmenthaler cheese.

225 g Shredded Gruyère cheese.

1 Tablespoon Lemon juice.

2 Tablespoon flour.

3 Tablespoon Cherry schnapps (Kirschwasser).

Pinches of nutmeg, paprika and ground black pepper.

Chunks of firm bread to dunk in the cheese.

  • Rub the inside of the fondue pot with the garlic, then discard the garlic.
  • Pour the wine and lemon juice into the pot and bring to just below boiling point on the stove.
  • Reduce the heat and stir in the cheese.
  • While continually stirring, add all the other ingredients.
  • If the mixture is too thick, add wine. If it is too runny, add more cheese!
  • Transfer the pot to the fondue burner.
  • Skewer the pieces of bread with your fondue fork, and tuck in!


c)     Dessert course - chocolate

Preparation time: 15 minutes.

Cooking time: Up to you!

Enough for 4 - 6 adults.

Enjoy with a fortified sweet wine, noble late harvest (botrytis) wine or glühwein.

125 ml Water.

250 g Dark chocolate.

100 g Milk chocolate.

300 ml Double cream.

To dunk: 12 marshmallows, 12 strawberries and 12 fresh cherries.

  • Bring the water to the boil in a small saucepan. Discard the water, and do not dry the inside of the saucepan.
  • Heat the cream over medium heat until hot, but not yet boiling.
  • Add the chocolate and stir until amalgamated with the cream.
  • Transfer to the fondue pot.
  • Tuck in!

“The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” – Anon.

Cream of Green Asparagus Soup

“Only the pure of heart can make a good soup.” – Ludwig von Beethoven.

Sadly, this year the artichoke season has come and gone way too quickly. Fortunately, locally-produced asparagus is in season, and tonight we celebrated the spring rain falling outside with one of the easiest dishes you’ll ever make – cream of green asparagus soup. It is an archetypical French soup – understated, but incredibly tasty. This is my take on it:

 Prepation time: 20 minutes.

Cooking time: 1 hour.

Serves 6 persons.

Tastes best accompanied by a wooded Chardonnay.

 4 Shallots.

20 g Butter.

1 Large potatato, peeled and grated.

24 Green asparagus spears.

500 ml Chicken stock.

250 ml Water (boiling hot).

250 ml Fresh cream.

12 French chive shoots.

500 ml Ice-cold water.

Butter-fried white bread croutons for 6 people.

Salt & pepper for seasoning.

  •  Finely chop the shallots.
  • Cut off the front 10 cm of each asparagus spear.
  • Chop the rest of the spears into 5 cm sections.
  • Heat the butter in a large soup pot & fry the shallots off until translucent.
  • Add the stock, boiling water, chopped asparagus sections and potato.
  • Boil on medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, blanche the asparagus tips for 3 minutes, then cool them rapidly in the ice water.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and blitz the contents with a hand blender.
  • Return the pot to the hob and lower the heat to the minimum.
  • Add the asparagus tips.
  • After another 15 minutes, gently stir in the cream.
  • Let the soup develop its flavour for 10 more minutes.
  • Season to taste.   
  • Serve a sprinkling of chopped chives and croutons.

“There's no poiny in making soup unless others eat it. Soup needs another mouth to taste it; another heart to be warmed by it.” – Kate DiCamillo.

Time to try some Thai...

“Thai food isn’t about simplicity. It’s about the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious whole. Like a complex musical chord it has to have a smooth surface but it doesn’t matter what goes on underneath. Some Westerners mistake it as a mere jumble of flavours, but to a Thai that’s important; it’s the complexity they delight in.” – David Thompson.

Thai food is a celebration of balance - equilibrium between sweet and sour, salty and hot; overlaid with umami (creamy/savoury). One of the best examples of this harmony is to be found in Tom Yum Soup, which delights the palate without leaving one bloated. It is a brilliant soup to serve in summer, and easy-peasy to make; give it a try!  

Prepation time: 15 minutes.

Cooking time: 15 minutes.

Serves 2 adults as a main course.

Tastes best accompanied by a well-chilled Viognier or Pinot Gris.


3 – 4 Cups chicken stock.

12 -15 (about 400 g) Queen-sized prawns, raw and peeled.

½ Cup of thinly sliced Shiitake or Porcini mushrooms.

1 Lemon grass stalk – mince tough lower half, and chop the rest finely.

3 Lemon or lime leaves.

2 Chopped hot chillies (Thai or Cayenne are excellent).

1 Bell pepper, finely chopped.

3 Cloves of garlic, roughly chopped.

2 Tablespoons of fish sauce.

1 Teaspoon of lime juice.

250 g Coconut milk.

2 Tablespoons of chopped coriander leaves.

Salt and white pepper for seasoning.

  • Bring the stock to the boil in a large pot.
  • Add the lemon grass and boil gently for 10 minutes.
  • Stirring slowly add the mushrooms, garlic, chillies and citrus leaves and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  • Add the prawns and bell pepper and simmer until the prawns are pink and on the point – around 5 – 6 minutes.
  • Turn down the heat and add the coconut milk, fish sauce and lime juice.
  • Stir and season to taste. If it is too sour for your liking, add a little honey or brown sugar.
  • Pour into soup bowls and garnish with the chopped coriander.   

“A gourmet who thinks about calories is like a tart who looks at her watch.” – James A Beard. 


Vichyssoise: Collaborating with the Yanks

“Eat leeks in March and wild garlic in May; and all year after physicians may play.” – Old Welsh rhyme.

Last night I made potato and leek soup out of necessity – I had some leeks in the fridge that were nudging TIMEX status – and what a smart move it turned out to be! Jakki and I had both had rough weeks, and the heat wave of the past month had dissipated sufficiently for soup to become an option for supper. Even if the heat had persisted, I would have still come up trumps – the soup would just have been served cold!

This iconic soup is a bit of a paradox – one of France’s flagship dishes was invented in America! There is general (but by no means universal) consensus that it was first made by Louis Diat, the French-born chef of the Ritz-Carlton in New York in 1917. Hearty potato and leek soup – not dissimilar to Scotch Cock-a-Leekie soup - had been a staple comfort food in his native Vichy district of Central France for decades, but what made Diat’s version unique was that it was a smooth, cold soup to be served in hot weather.

What I love most about this soup is its versatility. With very little effort, it can be transformed from a winter warmer to a chic summer dish. Here is my way with it:

Preparation time: 15 minutes.

Cooking time: 45 minutes.

Cooling time (for Vichyssoise): 30 – 40 minutes.

Serves 6 adults.

Tastes best accompanied by a medium-bodied red (with the hot soup) or a well-chilled dry Rosé (with cold Vichyssoise).


4 Ripe leeks, chopped into roundels.

2 Shallots (or 1 medium onion), chopped.

2 Medium potatoes, grated.

1 Tbsp unsalted butter.

900 ml Chicken stock.

150 ml Fresh cream.

2 ml Ground nutmeg.

1 Tbsp French chives, finely chopped.

Salt and pepper for seasoning.

2 Tbsp chopped ham (optional – only for the hot soup).

  •  Let the leeks and shallots “sweat” in the butter over low heat – the longer and slower the better, for this lets the flavour of the leeks develop. If you are making the hot soup, add the ham at this stage.
  • As soon as the vegetables are translucent, add the stock, potato and nutmeg. Bring to a slow boil.
  • Cook for 30 minutes over medium-low heat.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes.
  • Purée in the pot with a hand blender, or in a food processor.
  • Add the cream and half the chives, and check the seasoning.
  • Bring back to boiling point and simmer very gently for 5 minutes.
  • If you are serving the dish cold, allow to cool and then chill in the refrigerator.
  • Serve, sprinkled with the remaining chives.
  • The hot soup is delicious accompanied by croutons.

“The only way we’ll get the French to go after Saddam with us is to tell them there are truffles in Iraq.” – Dennis Miller. 

Laxsoppa: soup to watch the midnight sun by

“If we heard that somebody starved to death in Sweden or Switzerland, we would be shocked.” -  P. J. O'Rourke.


Sweden's climate and location are largely responsible for the nature of its cuisine. Early inhabitants had to stock durable food supplies to survive the country's long, cold winters. The Vikings, who inhabited Scandinavia more than a thousand years ago, were some of the first cultures to develop techniques for preserving foods – not just for winter, but also for long voyages. Foods were salted, dehydrated, and cured. Although modern appliances have eliminated the need for such preserving methods, Swedes continue to salt, dehydrate, and cure many of their foods, particularly fish. They are also past masters at using soups as a means of using leftover food.

As a result of Sweden’s longitudinal orientation, there are regional differences between the cuisine of North and South Sweden. In the Semi-Arctic North, meats such as reindeer and venison predominate, while seafood and fresh vegetables play a larger role in the South. Even here, the climate is still harsh for most of the year, and preserved foods are very much in evidence. Salt cod and cured salmon are iconic foodstuffs, as are sauerkraut and lingonberry jam – a uniquely Swedish way to add freshness to sometimes rather heavy food, such as steaks and stews.

 The country’s long winters explain the lack of fresh vegetables in many traditional recipes. Root vegetables are cornerstones; especially turnips like the kålrot (rutabaga), aptly named "swede" in Britain. A welcome addition was the potato, which became established in the 18th century. A paucity of speces made everyday food rather bland by today's standards, although a number of local herbs (particularly dill) have been used since ancient times. This tradition is still present in today’s Swedish dishes, which are still rather sparingly spiced.

Given its climate, comforting soup is popular among Swedes. The country’s soups also reflect the unique resources available to its chefs. Some of the perennial favourites are loxsoppa - creamy salmon and vegetable soup, nässelsoppa - stinging nettle soup (found in few cuisines outside Sweden), Orkdal soup  (lamb and rice soup with vegetables) and yellow pea soup – a relatively extravagant soup containing peas, carrots, potatoes, onions, bacon, and Vienna sausages. The undisputed first among equals is salmon soup; it is not just delicious but utilises unwanted scraps.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 75 minutes

Serves 4

Tastes best accompanied by a Colombard or oaked Chardonnay


For the stock:

1kg Salmon trimmings (head, skin, tail, bones)

5 Dill sprigs

5 Parsley sprigs

2 Cloves garlic, chopped

1 Onion

1 Leek (white part only)

1 Large carrot

1 Celery stalk, chopped

1 Tsp. black peppercorns

For the soup:

1.5L Salmon stock, made from the above ingredients

100ml Fresh cream

2 Egg yolks

50g Cooked and diced carrots

50g Cooked baby peas

2 Tsp. butter

1 Tsp. flour

Chopped dill and parsley for garnish


  • To make the stock, cut the salmon trimmings into small pieces, rinse in cold water, place in a large pot, cover with 2l cold water and bring it to the boil.
  • Skim carefully, then add the vegetables, herbs and the pepper.
  • Let the stock simmer for 45 minutes, then strain the stock.
  • Remove and set aside any salmon meat adhering to the head, tail or bones.
  • Now for the soup. Melt the butter in a deep, heavy saucepan over low heat, whisk in the flour and then the salmon stock.
  • Bring to the boil and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Whisk the egg yolks and cream together, and add the mixture to the soup.
  • Season with salt and pepper, if needed.
  • Add the cooked vegetables and any salmon meat that could be removed from the trimmings.
  • Sprinkle with chopped dill and parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Serve hot, accompanied by crusty bread.


“You don't take food home from restaurants in Sweden.” - Greg Poehler.


Our borscht is better than the muck you make in Rossiya

I know it looks like Gran, but it makes great Cotriade

I didn't know fish had balls?

I told you you would like clam chowder

Chef Christian Buffa of La Miramar with friends