In A Soup Kitchen

The term “Soup Kitchen” conjures up visions of big communal distribution centres that hand out hot nourishing food to those in need. It is a relatively modern term that has been around since the 18th century (at least according to Wikipedia) to characterise these kitchens set up by charitable organizations to serve the poor at minimal or no cost. However, the practice and the sentiment (the moral obligation to feed the poor and hungry) that underlies it has been around since ancient times, widespread among many cultures. As an ex-children’s librarian, it also reminds me of the well-loved story, Stone Soup, based on old traditional folk tales that tell of villagers’ communal efforts to make a soup to feed everyone, ensuring no one went hungry.

The modern reality of this humanitarian activity is at the forefront of many people’s minds here in Greece as waves of refugees sail in hazardous conditions from the Anatolian coast to the Greek islands, notably the larger islands of Samos and Lesvos. Many are escaping unspeakable conditions in their home countries, travelling to seek a better life. Both Greek and foreign aid groups have their hands full, ensuring (among other things) that no one goes hungry.

pumpkin_soup_feature

In the past month, S and I have been making a lot of soup in the kitchen here in Athens, not quite on the industrial scale as a Soup Kitchen (although the pumpkin soup came close in quantity) nor for the same altruistic purpose. However, soups are very practical as we have had a number of people passing through in this past month plus few major dinners were scheduled. It was convenient to have “tuppers” of soups in the freezer, not to mention a dozen or so sourdough baguettes. Our soups were made with basic, inexpensive vegetable ingredients, most common combinations – spinach and dill, carrot and ginger, potato and cheese. But, by puréeing them, sometimes adding a little bit of dairy product for a smooth creamy texture and adding a drizzle or garnish, they were transformed – the apearance of sophistication at a low cost. Always a very warming and soul satisfying meal available from our kitchen.

spinach_soup_prep

Spinach soup is actually made from frozen spinach for convenience and economy, but the leeks, spring onions and dill are fresh. Marscapone, a little bit of luxury, is the dairy of choice for this soup, making it very green and creamy.

spinach_soup

The finished product is decorated with small amount of double cream.

carrot_soup_prep

Another favourite is carrot and ginger soup which has a few basic ingredients – carrots, ginger, onions, a little orange juice and vegetable stock. A small amount of cream is added at the end. More cream is used as a decoration in the same way as the spinach soup. One can play around with “marbled” designs by dragging the tip of a souvlaki stick through the cream. With one of the batches still in the freezer, I will need to try it with corander pesto, as mentioned by Francesca @ Almost Italian in her post championing the carrot.

carrot_ginger_soup

One soup I make time and time again is a hearty Potato, Cheese and Dill soup. Over the years it has become one of my winter staples. My recipe’s origins have been lost along the way, but I had an inkling that it might have been listed in one of the Silver Palate books. However, paging through my cookbooks continues to prove fruitless and I simply make the soup from memory.

potato_soup_prep

The soup gets its base colour mainly from the added carrots. Flecks of green dill add a bit of visual interest, not to mention taste. We often serve this soup informally in mugs, espically enjoyed while curled up on a comfy sofa in front of a good DVD on evenings we have to ourselves.

potato_cheese_soup

Last, but not least was the giant vat (12 litres) of pumpkin soup made for a big event. 

pumpkin_soup_prep

The pumpkin is flavoured with a sage infused olive oil, rosemary, celery leaf and onion. The texture was smoothened with the addition of a few yams/sweet potatoes – no dairy needed here. Because both the pumpkin and yams tend to be sweet, the decorative drizzle was balsamic and the fried sage leaves (used to infuse the oil) were crumbled and sprinkled on top. These final additions elevated the soup from a prosaic potage to an elegant dish. I hope to post on this soup soon. Alas, the entire 12 litres was consumed and I did not have a chance to take a photo of an individual bowl of soup. However, the day after the event, I was faced with turning all the tops of the fennel leftover after making fennel gratin. Caramelised, I think, and turned into soup?

fennel_tops_feature

February has proved to be the coldest month here in Athens, so soups were most welcome. Good thing we have lots of freezer space. Soon, however, it will be time for the new greens and young spring vegetables, and perhaps exploring the world of cold soups.

A monthly IMK (In My Kitchen) post. Check out other IMK bloggers, each of us writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens each month, hosted by Maureen @ The Orgasmic Chef. For earlier IMK posts, see the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who, began the IMK phenomenon and until 2016 listed all of us IMK bloggers. A chronological listing of my In My Kitchen blog posts can be found on a separate page, just click the link or look under the heading of Diaries in the Menu bar above.
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35 comments

  1. It’s hot and wet here today so soup season seems a long way off. Have you posted a recipe for the potato, cheese and dill soup, I really like the sound of that combination. It’s amazing how the contents of these IMK posts mark the progress of the seasons for us all

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    • Sandra, it is now hot and dry here today and looking like it might stay that way for a while. Soups are still nice for a late evening light supper – at least it cools off a bit. Will try to work up a post for the potato-cheese-dill recipe.

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  2. I love soup in any season and this post is just full of lovely lust for me. Firstly, I am hankering after your potato cheese and dill soup- the first hint of cold and I will be making it. Secondly, I love the
    idea of sage oil, and the balsamic drizzle and crunchy sage leaves. Toppings add wonderful interest to soups.
    Looking forward to seeing what happens to the left over fennel too.
    And thanks for the lovely link back to my carroty post. The coriander pesto consists of garlic, coriander leaves, salt and oil, no nuts or cheese, buzzed. More like a coriander salsa.

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  3. Your descriptions of soup kitchens feeding the hungry and delectable soups feeding discriminating diners makes a nice clear contrast showing the range of this wonderful dish. Comfort food for everyone!

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    • Three requests now for that potato soup … looks like I will need to do it. It is warming up here and my thoughts are turning more to spring and summer foods, but I’ve been told that during March or even April can turn cold again – definitely soup time. Will put it on the list.

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  4. Debi, every time I read one of your posts I am amazed how industrious you have been. You must spend all day in the kitchen. That amount of soup would last Maus and Me several years.

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    • Hi Glenda, I love spending time in the kitchen, but S is really the cook here, so I only get a little time to do some actual cooking. S and I devise menus together, mainly for dinners we hold for guest lecturers and visiting scholars. The 12 litres of pumpkin soup was the first course for a sit down dinner for about 45 people. Luckily, we don’t have those sorts of events often!

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  5. What would we do without our freezers? Like you, I never make “soup for one” — or two. If I’m going to make soup, I bring out the big stock pot and MAKE SOUP. Have a few quarts of a variety of soups in the freezer is like money in the bank.

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  6. Love soup of any flavour. Fried sage leaves, great with butter and lemon sauce on ravioli too. Only about 10 weeks till we hit Greece now. Very excited 🙂

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  7. I love soups in the winter too. From hearty bean soups to butternut squash and everything in between, your potato soup sounds fantastic as well. It is slowly warming here as well, though I like soup year round.

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    • The potato soup is wonderful – hence one of winter staples. As you are cooling down, we are warming up. Will put it on the list of things to blog about, but it may get put on the “back burner” for a while.

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  8. Thank you for pointing out that soup kitchens are pre 1929…Loved the book Stone Soup, your tips on mascarpone and creative carrot ginger soups. Pumpkin and sage (maybe with Japanese sweet potatoes for creaminess) looks to be a must-try too.

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    • I love the Stone Soup story and used to read it to kids in the school library. Still have a copy of it around somewhere, waiting for grandchildren (in the distant future!). And, yes, soup kitchens existed long before the American depression.

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    • Pumpkin soup is very economical, I admit. However, when you are feeding many people, it is a great choice. Everything that be come a fad soon loses its appeal – at least to me – so with all the Brisbane places producing pumpkin soup, I can see where it might lose its attraction.

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