You know you come here for the writing. I know I come here for the same thing. What if I flipped the script today? It would be the best day to do that, I think. I came back from a doctor’s appointment this morning and my sprained thumb is almost back to normal. Yes. Then my computer wouldn’t turn on. It has been acting buggy all week. It’s like someone knew I had these big plans to write but instead I got crabby and hungry and made myself some potatoes. Two eggs on top, please.
Life doesn’t always do things the way we want it to. I should know this by now. Instead I’m behind on my newsletter. Trust me to wait till the last minute. What I want to tell you most of all is that this is the most Goan post I’ve ever written. Right from the things in the photos, to the book (which I borrowed from my Uncle Edgar’s house), to the soup, which tastes exactly like every soup from my childhood. And I’ve eaten a lot of soup as this blog might give away. Soup is part of the baggage the Portuguese left us – the only kind I don’t mind. Soup is comforting and great. It’s how I feel productive when I’ve made no dinner plans. It comes together like magic and if I add rice to it, I feel like I won a million dollars. Except it’s disguised as dinner and there will never be any money.
This book was something I saw a lot in my mother’s stash of recipes in the kitchen. I’ve never made anything from it before this recipe here. Old cookbooks always assumed that everybody knew how to cook. The instructions and measurements are to the point. There isn’t any hemming and hawing over how to treat the ingredients. We’re already supposed to know. Since I’ve started to cook for myself in the past few years, books like this one have finally started to make more sense to me. File this under things I knew but didn’t know I knew. The laptop is probably going to shut down inexplicably again so before it does, here is that recipe. Hope you make it.
This recipe isn’t meant to be set in stone so my instructions are written as such. Take a chance and change things up as you see fit. I don’t think you can make a mistake that you can’t remedy, really. If you’d like to make this stock with chicken, brown some chicken wings (skin on) in the pot before adding the water and the vegetables to it as you see below. Once the stock is ready, remove whatever flesh you can from the wings and add it to you soup. While making the stock you can leave all the vegetable peels on. It adds not just to the flavour but also the colour. The colour!
Oh and I don’t know if you’re supposed to eat tomato flowers so maybe don’t be like me on that one. I have a very Indian immune system so it takes a lot to make me sick on the food front.
Recipe adapted slightly from 100 Easy to Make Goan Dishes by Jennifer Fernandes
- 6 cups of water
- 4 stems of basil, leaves removed and set aside
- 1 large red onions, cut in half
- 1 potato
- 1 carrot
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cloves
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 1 dried red chilli
- 1 tsp salt
Put all the ingredients in a large stock pot and bring it all to a boil on medium-high heat. Once it’s in full boiling mode, reduce to a slow simmer and let it do its thing for a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour (or more? sometimes I forget it’s there). You can partially cover the pot or leave it open. At the end, you’ll get a deep golden vegetable stock that’s full of spice and warm notes. Strain the stock, pressing the vegetables down on the strainer so they release every last bit of liquid. Discard all that is left in the strainer. You might have 3 cups of stock at the end depending on how long it simmers. Just add a cup of water to it and you will have enough to make the soup in the recipe below.
Wipe down the stock pot and use it to make the soup below. If you’re freezing the stock, pour it into an ice cube tray and unmould the frozen stock ice cubes into a freezer-safe container or Ziploc bag. You could also pour the cooled stock straight into a Ziploc bag and freeze the sloshy contents directly.
For the soup
- 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
- 1/4 of a large red onion (or 1 medium onion for my people in India), cut into half-moon slivers
- 2 cups tomatoes, cut into wedges (whole canned tomatoes work too)
- 4 cups stock
- 1/2 cup basil leaves (it’s okay if it’s a little more or less)
- Salt, to taste
- 2/3 cup of pearled couscous or any baby pasta, optional
- Parmesan, to serve
Melt the butter in the stock pot on medium heat. Once it gets slightly bubbly, add the onions and stir them around for a minute or two until they soften. Add the tomatoes to the pot and stir to mix with the onions. Cook until the tomatoes lose their shape and break down into a chunky pulp. This will take about 4-5 minutes. If using canned tomatoes, mash them in a bowl with your hands prior to adding them to the pot and cook until you see some of the butter/oil come to the top.
Add the stock to the tomato mixture and bring it to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 20 minutes. Add in the fresh basil and salt to taste at the end and remove the pot from the heat.
Let the soup cool slightly and pour into a blender, making sure it’s no more than a 1/3 full. Puree the soup in batches and strain the contents as you pour it all back into the stock pot. This will get rid of the tomato skins and seeds that I so wistfully ignored earlier. Warm the soup back up and serve with lots and lots of parmesan and black pepper.
If you’re planning on adding some more heft to your soup, bring the soup back to a quick boil and add the pearled couscous. Let it cook for about 3-4 minutes. Taste the couscous and right before it’s ready, take the pot off the stove and let the couscous finish cooking in the warm liquid. Add a swirl of cream into each cup of soup, if you’re into that.