Thursday, 25 February 2010

Salt, snow and soup!

It's been nearly two months since I lasted posted and then it was on a glorious Christmas Day when we enjoyed fabulous weather, albeit we were in the grip of a real biting and prolonged freezing winter wonderland. When this wintry weather started in the middle of December, John and I were away on one of our mini excursions enjoying some much needed R&R along the west of Scotland and I remember not long after that someone made the comment that this winter would last well into the month of March. The commentator was pooh-poohed at the time but as March knocks on our door next week, they will be proved right.

The weather on the mainland has been exceptionally bad with snow and sub-zero temperatures; here on Mull and in Fionnphort particuarly, we haven't really had the snow but the freezing conditions we have had are unpredecented especially with it lasting over such a long period of time.

But what has prompted me to poke my nose out and come out of hibernation today? Well believe it or not it was a news item on BBC Breakfast this morning about the salt content of soup. The nation's dieticians recommend that an adult should not be consuming more than 6g of salt per day and that typically we consume around 9g a day which has health implications for us all - not least high blood pressure, strokes, heart disease and cancers!  Interestingly some soups contain more than our recommended daily allowance of salt in just one serving and can contain more than ten times the amount of salt than in a packet of ready salted crisps!!

This led me to think about and ask what soup are these people eating? And then it dawned on me - of course, shop bought tinned soup! What a travesty!!
Soup is the simplest, most nutrious and healthy food you can eat and yet somehow folks still mess it up and turn it into a health hazard.

Well the simplest solution is to make your own soup!

I can think of any number of reasons why you should and I can't think of any reason why you can't. So I'm not interested in hearing any 'Yes but, No but' answers, comments or smart alec responses.

Making soup is easy, quick, nutritious, healthy, satisfying, tasty and most importantly cost effective. You know what's going in to it (including the salt content) and its a great way of eating your 5 portions of veggies a day. You don't need a degree in food engineering to make soup, you just dig around in the bottom of the fridge (you know, the section where the veg is supposed to be housed) and make use of what you have. It's a great way of using up those less appetising bits of veg at the back too.

I don't think I ever ate home made soup until I moved here. The main reason was because soup was plentiful and convenient in tins. However once here, when I started to look at the ingredients on the can and compare the price of what I was paying, to what I was actually getting, I started to ask whether or not I was paying more for the tin (which incidentally you are) than the food in it. And why was I paying more for something that was being thrown away (ie the can), even if it was being recycled, when in actual fact I could make the soup myself and not throw anything away!!

And so several years ago I started on my journey of discovery on how to make my own soups.

They aren't fancy soups. Occasionally I look for a recipe for some inspiration but most of the time I do exactly what 'it says on the tin' - excuse the pun. I open the fridge and take a wee peek inside to see what needs using up and then I make the soup. Favourites include leek and potato, carrot and courgette, basil & tomato  soup (sometimes using fresh tomatoes, sometimes using tinned!), my stir crazy soup (literally anything there is to hand) and my green soup (I use all the green veggies I can find - including the curly bits of cabbage leaf that should really be composted).

And with this freezing damp weather, soup is welcomed by all. With a pot on every day home made soup is food for the soul. And just to help you on your way, I have made sweet potato and leek soup today which has been cooking whilst writing this and this is how I made it:

Ingredients: half a large onion, 2 sweet potatoes, 4 pathetic weedy leeks, some light olive oil (I prefer to use butter but I'm trying to lose weight), 4 teaspoons Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon (available in most food shops) and about 2 litres of boiling water (a kettle full in my house) 

This made a large pan full and will probably last the 2 of us for 3 days.

Gently heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the chopped onion and leeks, and cook for 5-10 minutes over a gentle heat with the lid on until the veg has softened. Add the peeled and diced sweet potato. Add 4 tsp of bouillon to a pint of boiling water, stir and add to the pan; top up the water in the pan with the remaining boiled water from the kettle, add seasoning to taste, stir and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for about 30 minutes or until the sweet potato is soft. Taste test and add more seasoning if preferred. Switch off the heat and allow to cool for about 30 minutes. Add to a blender and blend until smooth. Tip into a bowl and enjoy.

Go and make soup :-)

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Crimble & Bah Humbugs!

Christmas this year has been very different for John and I, as all of our four children have spent Christmas elsewhere. I am not a great fan of Christmas, mainly because I dislike the commercialism but also because Christmas is supposed to be about just one day of the year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and yet it seemingly lasts for 4 months or so! I also resent the fact that the retail sector seem to think that Christmas is a legitimate reason to ambush us from August onwards with as many creative ways as possible to relieve us of our hard earned cash! Consequently for some years now I have been saying I can't wait until the kids have left home so I can spend the festive season doing what I want to do (which is actually very little) without the pressure of Christmas Day.

Initially we were going to spend Christmas with just the two of us, plus our dug Megan. Interestingly though, despite my protestations and reluctance over Christmas I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time (since the end of October actually), in the kitchen preparing for this one special day organising, making lists, browsing through recipe books, shopping and cooking as many home made goodies and festive treats as I possibly could. What a shame the kids weren't going to be about to enjoy them!


However the jungle drums must have been beating as, at the 11th hour, I received a phone call from my Dad to tell me that his planned boat trip away for the festive season had been cancelled due to adverse weather and an alleged crew mutiny (of one person...........namely, my Dad!). My lovely Dad decided to make the humongous trek up from wintry Bedfordshire on Tuesday and stay with us for the festive season instead. He thinks he is doing me a favour by coming up to help us to eat all the festive goodies; I think he's probably right!  Hoorah for crew mutiny's!!

Anyway, as I write this post we have already spent a good part of the day out walking working up an appetite for our Christmas Day celebratory meal. The turkey is in the oven along with the sage & onion stuffing, chipolatas & bacon and the roast potatoes. We will start with crab pate on Arran oatcakes, lobster & smoked trout salad and if we still have room in our tummies, there is a drunken Scots Drambuie Trifle to finish with.

Merry Christmas everyone - hope you have all had as lovely a day as we have.........even without our much loved children xx


If you think life is a struggle you will always be struggling; if you think life is a breeze, your attitudes and actions will convey lightness and easiness