Soup, Soup, Soup!!!!

One word…soup but what a world of variety and comfort! Here at The Pantry “soup” has the status of an art form. I love creating special pots of soup and sharing the enjoyment with others.

On Saturdays customers can often sample some of our delicious soup recipes. Although I do make soups totally from scratch, base soup mixes can be so handy when we are busy. One of the soups we have sampled is Biaty Barszcz, a Polish white borscht. IMG_5635 IMG_5636 It is a traditional Easter soup made with a sour cream base and flavoured with a little bit of horseradish. We have been carrying Winiary brand white borscht soup mix.  I don’t think traditionally the soup contains cabbage but I wanted to give the soup a bit more body.  I chopped up about a third of a large cabbage and sauteed that in a bit of olive oil.  After mixing two packages of the Winiary soup case with the required amount of water, I added the sauteed cabbage and 2 Hungarian Debreszeni sausages chopped up.  That filled my slow cooker which I let simmer overnight so the soup would be ready to share with our customers this morning. A few weeks ago I made Dutch Zuurkool Stamppot.  The Dutch love mashed potato dishes and this is one of their many variations of Stamppot. Very simply, chopped sourcrout is mixed through mash potatoes although I added Silvo Zuurkool kruiden: an herb mix that elevates the flavour of the resulting dish. Usually I will serve a dish like this with Dutch Gelderse Rookworst…smoked sausage prepared with a recipe that hails from the Dutch province of Gelderland. But this time I served it with the same Hungarian Debreszeni sausage I used in the soup today. The slightly sour taste of the soup and the Stamppot pairs wonderfully with the Hungarian Debreszeni sausage.

When I was visiting my son and daughter-in-law in February we cooked up a family favourite: Potato Leek soup. IMG_5375The secret to this soup is simmering smoked pork hocks all day until the meat falls off the bones and you have a thick gelatinous broth. At home I have the wonderful Wagener Meats smoked pork hocks here at The Pantry.  Those aren’t available in Washington State. In fact, I couldn’t find any pork hocks in the store. What I did find were smoked pork shoulders.  They were called picnic hams…nothing like the sweet brine picnic pork shoulders I get here in Ontario…but prepared much the same as our pork hocks. Some recipes for Potato Leek call for rich cream.  Cream, however, limits the keeping life of the soup so if I am making a very large batch I prefer using a combination of Knorr Cream of Leek souIMG_5376p and Knorr Cream of Potato.  I couldn’t find those products in my daughter-in-law’s grocery store either so I was back to improvising. In the end, I used a couple of packages of alfredo sauce mix to create the creamy taste we are used to. What couldn’t be substituted though was several teaspoons of Verstegen Gehakt Kruiden. Fortunately, this “secret ingredient” which is actually intended for making Dutch meatballs was not forgotten in Ontario although we actually found it in a Dutch bakery the next day. To me Verstegen’s special combination of coriander, pepper, ginger, mace, nutmeg, cardemon, chillies and marjoram give the soup a little something special. It took a while to peel and cube all the potatoes but what a nice way to spend an hour chatting while you work. We enjoyed the resulting soup for supper that night with light biscuits. We also were able to freeze meal size containers to be enjoyed by our western family long after I went home.IMG_5391 It will also bring back the memory of a special day of cooking together. I know I won’t be able to make another pot of Potato Leek Soup without it bringing back that memory!  IMG_5390

A Greek twist: spanokopita

IMG_3700Garden salad, carrots and broccoli with lemon herbs, spanokopita twists with braised peppers and chicken.

IMG_3697Garden salads are so easy…just use whatever is fresh at the moment….I usually start with romaine lettuce or a spring mix which contain more vitamins than iceberg. Did you know that red peppers contain more vitamin C than green peppers?  They are also so much sweeter.

IMG_3698   I season chicken breast with Verstegen Marinade spices and then braise them with peppers.  I usually don’t feel like bothering to fire up the BBQ for just the two of us so my trusty cast iron pan does the honours with a bit of olive oil but this is a delicious BBQ option…just cut the peppers in larger pieces or skewer them.

IMG_3702   I throw my carrots into the pan first and let them blanch for a few minutes first in the boiling water before I add the broccoli florets. You can prep your carrots before work and refrigerate in water with a bit of sugar to save time when you get home and want to get the meal on the table quickly.  The broccoli florets can also be cut up and waiting in a bag in the fridge.

When they are just barely tender I drain the water, add a bit of olive oil and a lemon herb mix, toss and serve.  The spanokopita twists bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 F as I prepare the other items. I serve a bit of tzatziki yoghurt dip with the spinach pies. These flakey mini spinach pies now available at The European Pantry!