Now the cold weather has begun in earnest, I find myself dressing in layers; a practical exercise beloved by mothers, and rebelled against by reluctant teens. Tamoxifen is a fickle friend, causing huge fluctuations in body temperature that central heating alone won't fix; so I compromise, layering tees under thin sweats with thick knits, and scarves on top, to be cast aside as the heat in my body rises. I have re fallen in love with an old cashmere cardi, bought in a sale years ago, whisper soft and gentle on my cold bones. It is my fail safe; long and pocketed, perfect for pulling on over pyjamas first thing , before the heating launches into action, allowing me to brave the chill and scurry down to the kitchen to brew the first pot of coffee of the day.
It is weather like this that makes me crave warming dishes; chilli con carne, lasagne , curries and deep crusty pies...... but most of all soup. Not shop bought, pre packed sterile tasting soup, but the soup we ate as children; thick and flavoursome, tasting of love and comfort.
My mother is the queen of the soup pot. She has perfected her skills to a fine art; adding handfuls of this, sprinkles of that, and interesting titbits encased in those little bowls of 'leftovers' from the back of the fridge, to a heavy based pan slowly simmering on the stove. I'm sure at one time there was a recipe, yet over the years, it was tweaked and enhanced until it metamorphosed into something special, the taste of home. Carrot and coriander was a staple, served up with chunks of crumbly homemade bread. Then, with the addition of leftover Sunday veg, Jerusalem artichokes,a couple of courgettes, a grind of pepper, and a sprinkling of herbs, it transformed into a thick veggie delight, to stick to the ribs and banish the chill.
On days like today I too find myself in the kitchen, making soup. Not the same as my mother's; but rich and warming all the same .... My favourite being slow roasted root vegetables, smokey with paprika, hinting at the warm slow fire of chillies . My thin soups of summer, tangled with noodles and fragrant with lemongrass, ginger and lime are a thing of the past; put away ready for Springtime. Now is the time for robust flavours, for Harissa paste, Ras al Hanout, and the dried chillies from the garden. Yesterday evening I found a bunch of coriander lurking at the back of the vegetable drawer.....today my kitchen will once more smell of home.