Dear Friends of Autumn Cottage Diary
Its been a long time since I checked in with you all – the
beginning of October 2007 seems so far away in many respects (and Lily and
Pippin have grown even more!). Even the New Year has been slow in kicking into
action here at Autumn Cottage. But I’ve finally been prompted to put finger to
keyboard after mentions of the Slow Food
Movement by Britt-Arnhild and Chel of the Yahoo Armchair Travelling group .
Tim goes back to college tomorrow, and I had promised him
that before he did, I would make and freeze a batch of home made soup for him.
These soups are something of a tradition in our family – they are very much “slow
food” in their preparation, but fast in the effect that they have of bringing
people from the far end of the house to the kitchen, enticed by the herby,
garlic-y fragrance which floats abroad when the soup is simmering on the
So this afternoon was already designated “soup time”, but mentions
of the interest that others have in Slow
Food inspired me to take a few photographs to show just how simple the making
of this root vegetable soup really is. Here’s a little gallery of images to
show how it progresses – and here is the recipe. You won’t find many weights
and measures in it – this is cooking the way that my (our?) mother/s did it –
with plenty of tasting along the way to make sure that the things which count
We start with this - easy!
Autumn Cottage Root Veg Slow Soup
2 large onions
½ head of celery
2 large potatoes
8 medium carrots
At least 4 large cloves of garlic
A bunch of sage, rosemary and oregano
About 2 tbsp olive oil
About 1 tbsp butter
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
One of the most important additions - a bunch of herbs - can you smell it yet?
Put the olive oil, butter and chopped or crushed garlic into
a large pan and allow to sweat on a very low heat for 5 minutes – (infusion
rather than immolation!).
Peel and roughly dice all the vegetables, then add to the
oil and garlic. Give all a good stir, put the lid on the pan, and allow to
sweat for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, boil a kettle of water.
Add the magic ingredients – the bunch of herbs (add any that
you have – fresh are better than dried, but if dried is all you have, Italian
herb mixes work well – I imagine about a tbsp would do).
Pour boiling water over to just cover the vegetables. Lid
back on, bring back to the boil, then turn down the heat and allow to simmer
for an hour.
Add 1½ cups of red lentils; continue to simmer until all the
water has been absorbed. A little more water may be needed as you go along if
it gets too thick – different lentils absorb different amounts of water.
Allow to cool, removing the bunch of twigs which will be all
that is left of the herbs!
Either eat “chunky” with good granary bread, or whizz in a blender for a smoother soup. Season to taste.
(Throw nothing away! Peelings can happily be added to the compost heap - where they will miraculously turn into Black Gold for the garden over the space of a few months - all for FREE!)
The contents of the compost bin - greens, peelings, old paper and cardboard. Magic!
My question in the title was inspired by opening the door to
the larder to find the lentils (which I then dropped all over the floor when
returning them to their shelf, but that is another story – Lily and Pippin have
offered to clear them up – I don’t know if I should believe them?). Every time I
look in that cupboard, I have a little thrill of pleasure, to see the shelves
lined with packets, pots and jars - all manner of good things.
I was determined to keep the larder when we bought “part 2” of Autumn Cottage (then called “Myrtle Cottage”) in 1995. So many people rip them out, in favour of “integrated” storage in a fitted kitchen, but, though small (what I really long for is the bliss of a walk-in Victorian larder, complete with slate and marble shelving), it is my cool repository of magical ingredients, which will transform a pot of water and humble vegetables into wholesome soups, purees, olives and pasta which will transport me back to Italy, powders and potions which will take me travelling to the Middle East and India., What a treasure nook it is! So, do you long for or have a larder? If you do, what do you keep in it? If not, what would your ideal larder be?
[I thought that these links may be of interest, noticing that several comments to this blog have noted the use of "Pantry" for what I have termed "Larder". I've certainly learned something myself - especially that there is even a website dedicated to "Everything Pantry"!]
Though we have travelled three months through the fallow
part of the year, dear readers, there have been many changes at Autumn Cottage
– and the coming year promises to see many more. Change is often difficult, and
without burdening you with tedious personal details, I have found some of the
changes more challenging than I expected. Looking back, I am now trying to do
what I sometimes encourage my clients to do, to find the learning in all the
events that have, and continue to occur. (I am SO much better at telling other
people how to live their lives than I am at living my own!)
Alec is seeking horizons new, after leaving the work he has
done for 29 years. I, in turn, am now also open to the possibility of new
things in my life, new directions, new adventures, new challenges – which I
hope I shall continue to meet here at Autumn Cottage.
I still continue to study at Winchester for the moment, though the openness to new challenges may include suspending those studies for a while, while I continue to build my counselling and psychotherapy practice, which will be extending more into on-line work in the next year, and also to offer many more day classes and courses here at the cottage. The new herb garden will be another place for my lovely workshop attendees to sit,contemplate, and write. here it is, in the depths of winter. Watch this space as it develops over the year.
In fact, I am returning to some of the things that first
brought me to writing “Autumn Cottage Diary” on the Internet, some 12 years
ago. I still want to share life here in an English country cottage with those
of you who love such things – I want to return to sharing the changing seasons
of the beautiful countryside with which I am surrounded, the old buildings in
the interesting towns and villages which still exist – if you know where to
look for them – the old bookshops, the antiques, the crafts, the good food and
drink that can also still be found.
Not every town has been completely taken over by plate glass-windowed
emporia, clones of their brother and sister shops in every other town – all
lookalike “Next”, Debenhams, Homebase and Tesco. The interesting and the
downright eccentric still exist! (The superstores are also great – in their own
way – but often very unlovely).
So join me through 2008, as I bring the pleasures that I
enjoy daily – here in the garden and house at Autumn Cottage, and when I travel
in the towns and villages of England and abroad. I’ve missed you all – thank
you, so many of you, for writing and telling me how much you have missed me.
Your sincere concern has been heart warming to me.
To bow out for today, who else could I leave you with other than Pippin, Lily, and Lissie (who decided to feast a day early at Christmas, ending up on the veterinary operating table the day after Boxing Day – but that, too, is another story!)
Who's bigger now? Lissie, thin and fragile but OK after surgery.
Another computer geek in the house!
A belated Happy New Year to you all!