Updated: Jan 8
As I write, the November rains are pouring down outside, soaking the soil under foot and creating the most exciting rivers of water down every path and gulley. The clouds over head are heavy and grey, full of dark inky colours and flashes of lightening. These rains never last long, but they are the final solace after long periods of dry weather that we need to fill up every water tank, every pool in the rivers and every corner of the dams on which the wildlife and we depend.
So in honour of this beautiful, heady green season, I bring to you the comfort of a warm wintery soup made fresh from our organic 'shamba' this week!
Try to source organic vegetables wherever you can, look for any community supported agriculture or permaculture initiatives. Supporting local farmers and small businesses is essentialto the health of any community and more often than not will ensure that the environment around you is being cared for and that your family is eating the best possible quality food with the least chemicals.
One of the many advantages of living completely off grid is that we grow all our own vegetables, ensuring their provenance and making cooking that much more of an adventure. From sowing the seeds to pulling the veggies out of the ground, we do it all here...
Warm and hearty Fennel and Potato Soup straight from the garden, Perfect for rainy days and cooler weather:
3 large bulbs of fennel and their leaves
4 large potatoes (peeled and diced)
2 large leeks
2 sticks of celery
handful of celery leaves
2 cloves of garlic
1 handful of dried fennel seeds
4 generous glugs of extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion
150 ml of water
edible flower for garnish - maybe calendula for their lovely cheerful yellow and orange petals
salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning
I always make soup in large quantities at the weekend so that we can enjoy it throughout the week. You can freeze any soups in small containers to make it last longer and reduce food waste.
Chop your garlic and onions together and heat slowly in the olive oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan until they start to turn golden and crisp around the edges. This provides the flavour base to your soup. Once golden add the fennel seeds and cook them util they crisp up
( I use cast iron pots as they last and give great results.)
Chop up the fennel bulb, celery sticks and peeled, diced potatoes and add to the mixture in the pan. Stir with a wooden spoon so all vegetables are mixed together and the flavours combine. Add 100 ml of water and allow them boil together, add a pinch of salt and some freshly round pepper. Put the lid on and allow to cook on a medium to high heat reducing the soup and concentrating the flavours.
In a separate heavy bottomed frying pan put a splash of olive oil and a handful of capers, add to that a handful of chopped celery leaves and fry together until the leaves begin to crisp up. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and set aside on paper towels. These will be used as a garnish on the top of your soup.
Once the soup has cooked for half an hour and reduced down, season to taste and whizz up until smooth with a hand blender.
I like to serve all my hot soups with a chunky hunk of seeded wholemeal bread ( this recipe to come) and a little garnish of crispy fried celery leaves, a drizzle of the hot celery infused oil and maybe some edible calendula petals for a beautiful finish.
Serve in a bowl for eating by a open fire if that's what feels right!