Necessity is the mother of soup
Some years ago I was sailing on a boat with my family of one husband and two small girls. We set sail one day from Jaguanum Island to Rio de Janeiro. It was a quick dash as we had an unwell Australian girl on board and had to get her to a doctor. We waited till the wind was strong and set off. What could go wrong? The Wind. Mjojo was a purely wind-powered sailing vessel and without the wind we couldn´t move. So this potentially 12 hour journey took several days as I have recounted in my book about the voyaging.
The wind came and went. The current was strong. Consequently we made a little headway and then the wind would die and the current would sweep us back. There was no way to return to the island so we had to sit it out. The wind would come eventually.
But, in the meantime, we had made the classic mistake of not planning for disaster so had little water and hardly any food. By the second day at sea we had to beg a passing fishing boat for water which they found most comical as several plastic containers of doubtful water were passed from them to us as we bobbed in the waves. Meanwhile I was scrabbling in the bottom of lockers to see what I could find. I found a bag of chestnuts. Could I make a meal of that? I consulted my faithful Cordon Blue Cookery book for ideas and found the recipe for Chestnut soup so that is what we ate that day. I had an onion but not a carrot, butter but no cream, brackish water but no stock. I have never made chestnut soup before or since.
I was reminded of this salty tale the other day during pandemic times as I was pondering the diminishing contents of my fridge. Living as I do in a remote village where there are no shops and we are not encouraged to go to Ronda more than is absolutely necessary, I found myself having to do a bit of lateral thinking.
Every week I receive a delivery of gorgeous, ecologically grown vegetables from a place on the coast. They are so delicious and cultivated with such care that I cannot waste a single peeling. My parents used to tell me about the food shortages in World War II when people had the same attitude of waste not want not and my mother purportedly fed the whole family with one sausage and two potatoes.
So I made a soup of kale stalks and the leaves of the beautiful cauliflower that was awaiting its fate (probably Ottolenghi´s wonderful Mustardy Cauliflower Cheese)
The simple soup technique which always gives great results is to lightly saute the chopped veggies in oil and then add stock (or water works almost as well). Leave to simmer till tender and blitz. The result is always divine and resembles the sort of potage I recall from meals in France long ago. Necessity is the mother of soup indeed!