Do you need a silky bowl of soup, stat? Do you need something that is deceptively dairy free, elegant but homely, calming and pluckily thrifty? If so, then I think this slow carb twist on vichysoisse might be what you’re looking for. This leek and white bean soup, rounded with the surprising sweetness of a little pear is the edible equivalent of wearing freshly washed pyjamas to the dinner table (comforting beyond belief, but still exhibiting enough self care to be able to dine with a modicum of civility). If you want the recipe in a hurry, skip straight to the photo at the bottom. If you have time for context, read on.
We’re nearly coming to the end of this #poppyseedtopumpkin caper. This week we’re focusing on leeks, because at 38 and a half weeks, that’s the size of my daughter, as she twinkles her toes all the way up under my rib cage (sweet, for a second, then frankly uncomfortable). I have reached the point of gestation where I am tempted to hand out a business card with all necessary details on it at the start of each conversation – because the protrusion of my middle is so obvious that I AM the literal elephant in the room. It’s impossible to talk about anything else without addressing it first. Yes, I’m nearly there. Yes, the bag is packed. Yes, we’re excited. Yes, we know it’s a girl. Yes, we do have everything set up at home (though once again I’m too superstitious to take the shiny new pram out of the box). Yes, the freezer is well stocked (see the previous 33 posts on this blog). And no, Will is not loving it all.
My poor first born is having a muddle of a time. Too much excitement; Christmas, Santa, treats, parties, disrupted routine, holiday food. But why can’t I have ice cream for breakfast mummy? Why isn’t Santa coming again today? I WANT A DRAGON MOVIE NOW (often bellowed at 3.40 am). He’s having a very hard time steadying himself. He’s like a puppy jumping at fireworks, or a tyrant in training, with an itchy Twitter-finger. He is lashing out and saying incongruous, often hurtful things to those he loves most, testing us to see ‘if I push you, will you come back?’. A sage soul I know is often prone to saying ‘parenting is yoga’. I haven’t been to my class in a long time, but I feel like I’m getting a daily work out. And… breathe…..
I fear things are only going to get harder for him as the weeks go on. Meanwhile, we continue the waiting game, with many nights bringing their own episodes of false starts and shy retreats. I’m packing and repacking bags. I’m nesting with a fury that can only be tamed with a dusting cloth in my hand. I’m re auditing the contents of the freezer, despite the fact that I know that during the nights I’m in hospital there’s a much better chance that the men in my life will be out at a sushi train, rather than defrosting a lovingly parceled up chicken casserole.
I’m also living up to my new year’s resolution. This year, I intend on leaning OUT a bit. There’s the sequel that Sheryl Sandburg needs to write. I’m going to try and find more joy in the simple tasks of everyday. I’m going to make the effort to sit down and play my piano, rather than just rest a glass of wine and a stack of library books on it. I’m going to try and tame the need to tick things off and march forward, onwards and upwards, often in search of a gold star that will never be bestowed, because it wasn’t there to start with. I’m going to make an effort in my garden. I’m going to read more actual books, rather than a twitter feed. I’m going to cook real food and eat and walk and swim spend a lot of time sitting on the floor, eye to eye with small people, counting the folds in their thighs. These years are never going to come again. This is my last baby. I know this. My body knows this. I don’t do this well. I’m not going to test fate.
So until then, we continue to wait. We make broth. We turn that broth into soup. We sit calmly and eat in silence when we can. If that sounds like something you could do with too, this is the perfect meal to pave that path.
A traditional vichyssoise can be served either cold or hot, though I think this really comes into its own when warmed. I’ve used home made chicken stock in this, which has a delightful gelatinous quality that provides an indulgent satiny feel when heated (and can be a little gummy when cold). I’ve chosen to garnish it with some finely shredded kale, black pepper and parmesan, but if you wanted to keep it completely dairy free then some chopped hazelnuts or almonds would be a nice stand in for the parmesan – as would some crispy sage leaves for the kale.
This should probably be served with some terrific quality sourdough on the side, or could be bolstered out further with some left over roast chicken folded through. And a glass of white burgundy probably wouldn’t go astray.
Here are a few other things that are going on:
Less cooking, more blitzing. I have become a total new year’s cliche and have got quite partial to a green smoothie in the morning. My current favourite combination involves fresh pineapple with banana, orange, chia, yoghurt, some coconut oil and some kale. Wouldn’t it be great if my offspring would drink it too? Ha. Fat chance. It’s green. Luckily I can disguise most things with his morning ‘chocolate smoothie’ – which involves chia, flax, banana, coconut oil, kale, milk, yoghurt and raw cacao. It looks like mud to me, but to him, all he sees is chocolate (he is his father’s son).
And speaking of chocolate, I took to our New Year’s Eve festivities (a lovely local gathering with some of Will’s best buddies and their mums and dads) the decidedly decadent famed Alice Medrich cocoa brownies. These are not gluten free, refined sugar free, dairy free, or anything free. They are indulgence squared. They are, potentially the perfect brownie for when you really want to push the boat out. By just using cocoa rather than melted chocolate they get the intensity of chocolate flavour, without the heft of the cocoa solids. I find them best cold out of the fridge – that way you can cut them into defined shapes – and topped with fresh berries and ice cream, but that’s just me. The other bonus is they’re a simple muddle and mix (I didn’t bother with her step of using a double boiler, I just melted the butter in the microwave and they were fine) – and the recipe doubles easily. If you’re going to make them, you might as well make double and freeze the rest for a really crummy day. Smitten Kitchen has done a version of the recipe which is a great jumping off point. See here.
I took Will to see ‘Moana‘ last week on a searingly hot day when my parenting capacity was at an all time low. It was delightful. Perhaps a little scary in bits for a three and a half year old (lava monsters etc), but the non-romantic storyline, strong female protagonist, Pacific mythology and dancing tattoos on ‘The Rock’ ‘s demi god character Maui tickled all of our fancies. So much so that Will has insisted on drawing on full sleeve tattoos with texta most days since. I also can’t get ‘You’re Welcome‘ out of my head.
This video from Jacques Pepin (via David Lebovitz) which explains beautifully why recipes should be more about communicating the desired result, rather than an explicit step by step process. ‘There is a paradox between the written recipe and the creation of a taste’. When writing a recipe one records a moment in time, which can never be duplicated exactly again’. So true.
I’ve had George Michael’s Ladies and Gentlemen on repeat for the last week. This one hit hard. George Michael is a direct portal to my late teens. I have a distinct memory of sitting in a bakery cafe in Melbourne killing time for hours with two of the smartest women I know when they had the album on repeat. We entertained ourselves by occasionally discussing cultural relativism with the self importance that is only known by teenagers who have just discovered Franz Boas and miming studio sessions of ‘Freedom’, with one hand up to our ears.
‘The Princess Diarist’ by Carrie Fisher. Speaking of things that hit hard. Some of my favourite podcasts end by asking who you would ask to dinner, for your ultimate final supper. Carrie Fisher is always there for me. For one, Leia was my childhood and seeing her return to Star Wars last year as General Organa was a shining moment of glee. But beyond that, nearly ever one of my favourite films; ‘Drop Dead Fred’, ‘When Harry Met Sally’, plus my recent dark comedy love ‘Catastrophe’ feature her brilliantly. And the woman could write. ‘The Best Awful’ is a searingly funny, dark and illuminating glimpse into the unique of challenges life with Bipolar. So far I’m only a third of the way in, but ‘The Princess Diarist’ is helping to bring some light back into the darkness of having such a force taken from the world.
Leek and White Bean Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, stem trimmed, white and pale green parts reserved
3 cloves of garlic, crushed or thinly sliced
1 pear, peeled, cored and diced
2 x 400 g tins of white beans/cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
500 ml/ 2 cups of chicken stock/ vegetable stock (or water)
Salt to taste
To serve; finely shredded kale, parmesan cheese, black pepper
Here’s how we roll
1 Slice the leek in half, then rinse well. There can be a terrifying amount of dirt caught between the layers. Slice into slim half moons.
4 Use a stick blender, or transfer to a food processor or blender and blitz until silky smooth. Taste and season well with salt. Top with shredded kale, parmesan, black pepper and a drizzle of good quality olive oil.
Previously in Poppyseed to Pumpkin
Each week mad websites and baby books will tell you how big your baby now is in comparison to a seed, fruit or vegetable. It starts as a poppy seed and goes from there. To make this process a little more palatable, join me as I bake my way through. Here’s the journey so far. (Nb, you can also see the poppy seed to pumpkin process in the app, or ebook from my first pregnancy with Will, or read about it on the blog here.)