Sometimes dishes come from escapist inspiration. It’s about conjuring a memory of time spent away, and recreating the experience of ‘other’. You might write elegiac blog posts about them (and perhaps put a whole bunch of them in a book). Some of those meals find their way into anecdotes which you store up for dull conversation in awkward groups. Food is a common unifier- even if it’s just to hash over what you don’t like to eat.

And sometimes dishes come about because that’s what’s left in the fridge.

This soup was not the dinner I intended to have last Friday night. I was gearing up to visit what is, arguably the best pizza in London.

Franco Manca sits in the covered markets of Brixton in South East London.

It’s an area that’s being gentrified, quickly. These days on Electric Lane it’s easier to find a fellow in his early 20’s sporting pegged pants, an ironic hat and facial hair that would make Abraham Lincoln jealous than a jicama- though there are still plenty of sterling Caribbean grocers to be found on the side streets of this suburb.

Franco Manca’s sourdough pizza is something I sang the praises about a while ago now.  There’s a slightly malted taste to them, but the real kicker in this pie the texture. The outside is puffed into bouncy domes that puff like a  billowing bed sheet. The underneath is charred in circles that leave smudgy residue on the tips of your fingers. They’re startlingly good.

Which is why, when I came down with a rudding temperature and a cough at 4pm on Friday afternoon I was downright grumpy. Nobody is that fond of the girl at the table who willingly shares both her food, and her virus. So we pulled the plug and stayed home.

There wasn’t a lot that was thrilling in the fridge. There were lots of greens (courtesy of an earnest attempt to feed the stowaway some proper nutrients). Somewhere is the ever-present, meal saving, flavour boosting log of chorizo. In the freezer there peas. And in the fruit bowl I found some slightly sad looking pink lady apples.

The thinking went like this. Peas are friends with chorizo. The kale that needed to be used is relatively cordial with apple (a while ago I threw them together in a quiche. I was pleased with the result). And soup is good when you’re poorly.

So that’s how this Kermit green bowl of joy was born. And it was so good, that we made it again for Monday lunch.

Here are a few guiding principles to help steer the course- treat the vegetables the same as if you were making a stir fry. Cut the pieces up to relatively the same size so the cooking is quick and consistent.  Start with the hardier ones, like the apple and stems of the broccolini/tenderstem. Sautee them for a short while. Then add the softer courgette pieces, frozen peas and kale to defrost and soften for a minute or so, then douse in piping hot vegetable stock. You don’t want to boil and stew this for long, lest it turn as brown and grim as a bunch of forgotten flowers.  A quick cook until everything is soft, then blitz it together, using either a stick blender or a food processor.

If you’re keen on a vegetarian route, top it with some goat’s curd, lemon zest and toasted pine nuts. A few chilli flakes might not go astray either (though that will take it much closer to the more herbaceous ‘Green soup‘ I’m fond of making when we return from travel). But to me there’s something lovely about the way crisp pebbles of  chorizo, and almonds that have been toasted in the scarlet oil from the sausage contrast with the smoothness of the soup.

Serve it for company alongside a pile of griddled bread that’s set in the middle of the table, or eat it on the couch in your tracksuit pants watching bad television, wishing to heck that pregnancy allowed you to take proper cold and flu drugs.

And then make a firm plan to return to Brixton this Friday night when everyone’s health is properly restored.

For if we’re really going to be honest, green soup is all well and good- but sourdough pizza?

That’s another level of glee all together.

Franco Manca Sourdough Pizza
4 Market Row, Electric Lane,
Brixton
London SW9
020 7738 3021
francomanca.co.uk

Eatori write up of Franco Manca  here.

Kale, Pea, Courgette and Apple Soup (with Chorizo Almond Crumble)

Serves 2 hungry ones, or four as a light lunch with bread (nb, you can also bulk it out further with more peas or a rinsed tin of white beans).

Equipment

1 stock pot/ Dutch oven. 1 blender/food processor or stick blender.

Shopping/foraging

1 tbsp olive oil
1 sweet red apple, peeled, cored and cut into small dice
100 grams (6 stems) of tenderstem broccoli/ broccolini (you could also substitute with half a head of broccoli), cut into small dice- stems included.
1 courgette/zucchini, cut into small dice
1.5 cups (180 grams) frozen peas
3 single handfuls of kale
1.5 cups/375 ml hot vegetable stock
Salt to taste

Optional
50 grams of chorizo, cut into small dice
2 tbsp flaked almonds
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, picked

 Here’s how we roll

1) Add the olive oil to the bottom of the Dutch oven and sautee the apple over a medium heat for one minute. Then add in the tenderstem/broccolini and sautee for two minutes, until it begins to soften.

2) Add in the courgette, kale and peas and sautee for two minutes, stirring so the peas defrost and the kale wilts.

3) Pour over the hot vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Check to make sure that the apple and tenderstem/broccolini stems are soft.

4) Blend until smooth. If using a blender or a food processor be careful – don’t fill it all the way to the top and place a tea towel over the top of the blender- hot liquids can expand.

5) Taste and season with salt if needed.

6) To make the crumble place the small pieces of chorizo in a fry pan over a medium heat and sautee until cooked and the pan has crimson oil leaching through it. Add the flaked almonds and cook until the almonds have been toasted in the oil.

7) Serve the soup with the chorizo crumble and flat leaf parsley scattered over the top. Alternatively, for a vegetarian version add a dollop of goat’s curt and some lemon zest to go with the parsley.