Posts Tagged ‘Soup’

Macaroni Soup

May 29, 2010

Well, there was me thinking that none of Mrs Beeton’s recipes revolved around pasta.

As I’ve worked my way through the index, there are various things I’ve not yet spotted.  Bananas, for one thing.  Did they have bananas in Victorian England? Even wondering this question makes me feel rather ignorant – but it’s really not something I’ve ever had to think about.  Melons don’t feature too heavily, either – and when they’re mentioned, it seems that ‘melon’ had a different sense and / or use back then (Mrs Beeton:  “THE MELON.—This is another species of the cucumber…”)

Anyway, back to the topic.

I was looking for a simple soup to take the edge off our hunger before dinner, something that my boyfriend wouldn’t just take three spoons of before slipping the rest to our 3 cats (seriously, they’re like a pack of starving wolves when we’re eating, despite being very well fed and cared for).  To my great surprise, ‘Macaroni Soup’ practically blinked back at me from the page.  I don’t mind being wrong when I’m hungry.


INGREDIENTS – 3 oz. of macaroni, a piece of butter the size of a walnut, salt to taste, 2 quarts of clear stock No. 105.


First, I have to confess something.  I had to cheat.  There was no way I could wait 5 hours to boil up the stock.  Nor was I going to add meat, despite my boyfriend’s protestations that the soup would taste a hundred million times better that way and what would Mrs Beeton think?



So, I added most of the listed ingredients to a basic vegetable stock of my own, and gently simmered the mix for 30 minutes before adding the cooked, sliced macaroni to some of the liquid (I left the rest to continue simmering for another 4 1/2 hours, to see what the end result tastes like some other time).  I had bought the long-stemmed macaroni only that morning from a farmer at the local market, so I was pleased to be able to use it almost immediately.

After adding the cooked macaroni, I gave the liquid a few more minutes on the stove before gently ladling it into some bowls.

My boyfriend thought it was surprisingly tasty for what it was, especially with an extra big pinch or two of Parmesan Cheese.

The soup has a very mild taste – nothing spectacular, but enough to satisfy our hunger pangs while the main dish was being prepared.



By the way, I’ve come to the conclusion that a Victorian kitchen, as envisaged by Mrs Beeton, must have been very much like a modern restaurant in many respects.  So many items needed to be prepared in advance, to be drawn on depending on daily requirements.  For example, the stock would have been prepared at least by the night before and used (presumably) for more than one planned dish.  Many recipes also call for storeroom cupboard products prepared far in advance – Mushroom Ketchup, Burnt Onion Sauce, Lemon Brandy, dried herbs, preserves, etc.  Very little could be easily and/or inexpensively procured from local shops or markets.

The more I get into this 365-day challenge, the more I admire and respect our Victorian ancestors.  Whether or not they could afford to live as Mrs Beeton encouraged, they still had to put in a heck of a lot of work to feed their families and run a household.  And some of their modern descendants complain about not having the energy to heat a ready-meal in the microwave!

Compared to our ancestors, we’ve got it sooooooo good, that’s for sure.


Macaroni Soup (Recipe 135):

Cream of Kohlrabi Soup (A Semi-Beetonised Dish)

March 21, 2010

I have to state upfront, this recipe is not strictly from Household Management.  I first came across the vegetable ‘kohlrabi in Household Management, and at around the same time I noticed it coming into season (with the same name) in my local market here in Germany, where I’m currently living.  Mrs Beeton’s description of the vegetable (see link below) had me intrigued (I’d never heard of it before), and I wanted to know more.  Recently, I ordered ‘Cream of Kohlrabi Soup’ from the canteen of the company I’m working with.  It tasted pretty good – very mild and creamy.  Even my boyfriend would have liked it, had he been brave enough to try!


Mrs Beeton tells us “Although not generally grown as a garden vegetable, if used when young and tender, it [kohlrabi] is wholesome, nutritious, and very palatable.”.    Not to be overly critical or anything, but Household Management doesn’t exactly specify what you can do with this wholesome, nutritious and very palatable vegetable. The description of kohlrabi is plonked somewhat ignominiously under an entry for boiling broccoli (or ‘brocoli’, as she calls it).

So, I decided to combine Mrs Beeton’s preparation steps for broccoli /description of kohlrabi with a Cream of Kohlrabi Soup recipe I just created myself, based on the taste of the canteen version (with some improvements of my own, of course!)…

INGREDIENTS:  3 kohlrabi (chopped into small cubes), 1/2 small onion (or 1/3 of large) (chopped), 1/2 tablespoon of butter, 1 teaspoon of oil, 2 tablespoons of flour, 2 1/2 cups (625 ml) of vegetable stock, 2/3 cup of milk, pinch pepper, good pinch of salt, a small grating of nutmeg

In a frying pan, fry the onion in the oil and butter until soft.  Add the kohlrabi and fry until slightly soft and light brown (6-8 minutes).  Then add the flour, stir everything together until flour is fully combined, and add the vegetable stock.  Simmer for approximately 20 minutes until the kohlrabi is tender (the liquid should be smelling pretty tempting by this stage!).  Put the mix in a processor with the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.  Return to the stove and reheat for 1-2 minutes.  Serve (with a dollop of sour cream, if desired).

I read on a website ( that medium / large kohlrabi needs to be peeled before use.  I haven’t a clue about the difference in looks between a small and large kohlrabi (the kohlrabi at the market all seemed the same size), so I peeled them anyway and cut them into small cubes.  When I first smelled it, I thought, ‘Hmmm, this isn’t exactly interesting!’, but when it started to fry with the onion, it took on a much more tempting scent.

This impression continued to be confirmed as the vegetable mix simmered in the stock.  The whole kitchen began to smell very inviting!

The final product is incredibly delicious (and I’m not just saying that because it’s my own recipe!).  When cooked, kohlrabi really does taste densely creamy – the taste doesn’t overwhelm your palate.  Even though it was only 10am, I raced for a spoon and ate a bowl immediately.  I’m not sure if any will be left when my boyfriend finally gets out of bed!

I’m not sure how common or affordable kohlrabi was in Mrs Beeton’s time, but I’m surprised she didn’t include at least a simple soup recipe for it.  I can’t imagine such a mild, creamy tasting vegetable (at least when cooked) being disliked by anyone! (although my fussy boyfriend has yet to try it…)


By the way, is kohlrabi both plural and singular in English and German?


Kohlrabi – Introduction by Mrs Beeton (Recipe 1095):

The Widowed Farmer’s Humble Carrots

February 20, 2010

On the weekend I was, as usual, to be found at the local Farmers’ Market.  It’s not the biggest in Germany, but it’s certainly one of the best I’ve ever been to.  Everything in season is available in abundance, and a good bit of produce out of season in addition, although I tend to avoid the latter whenever possible.

Most of the stands are run in a semi-sophisticated yet rustic fashion by farming families.  Recently, however, an elderly farmer with not the cleanest hands in the world but clearly a lonely, hard-working widower (or so I’ve imagined his tragic story on his behalf) has been there with his back-of-the-truck stall.

He doesn’t sell much – some home-picked flowers, a few kilos of muddy potatoes, a handful of herbs.  Upon spotting a small pile of ruddy, wholesome-looking carrots (clearly uprooted only that morning), I decided to buy a kilo from him.  He deftly packed them up and sent me on my way with a lop-sided grin.

Throughout the week I’ve pulled a couple of carrots here and there out of the bag to use them for dinner.  With only three left, and a craving for some sort of soup on this slushy, sleety day, I turned to Household Management to see what I could do with them.


Carrot Soup (Version 2):  INGREDIENTS – 2 lbs. of carrots, 3 oz. of butter, seasoning to taste of salt and cayenne, 2 quarts of stock or gravy soup.


As I only had 3 carrots, I divided the ingredients by 5. This also enabled me to cut down the preparation time by about 30 minutes, which pleased my rumbling stomach greatly. (Anyway, she says it takes 1 1/4 hours, yet in the instructions it says nearly 2 hours.  So I went for the lower figure).

To garnish it, I figured that Mrs Beeton’s Fried Parsley would be a healthier (?) substitute for bread, which we’ve eaten quite a bit of recently.


INGREDIENTS – Parsley, hot lard or clarified dripping.


Although I would have quite liked to try the parsley whole, I very well know that my boyfriend wouldn’t touch it if he had any indication of what it was before he tried it.  I used a nice flat-leaf variety, meaning that it didn’t raise immediate suspicions when he saw it garnishing the soup.

However, when it came to the point, I just couldn’t  do it.  Mine was the only soup that was scattered with parsley.

“What is this, potato?” he asked when I passed him his bowl.


“Gruenkohl?” (green kale)

“Well no dear, it’s not green.”

“Well I don’t know then.”

Once I laughingly told him what it was, he decided that it was “OK, alright… it tastes sweet and not sweet at the same time”

I on the other hand am clearly not as sophisticated with my descriptions.  This soup is quite good – very hearty with a pleasant savoury sweetness.  Try it!

PS Be careful when frying the parsley – when it starts to go slightly dark green, take it off the stove, otherwise it’ll turn black and get too crispily burned to enjoy it properly.


Carrot Soup (Recipe 121):

Parsley Garnish (Recipe 494):

Creamy Celery Soup

February 14, 2010

Until last week, I’d have never given Celery Soup a try.

I’m not overly fond of the taste – especially raw – but I concede that it definitely enhances the flavour of ministrone and stews.

At a local restaurant lunch to welcome a new colleague last Monday, the waiter offered us the Taggessuppe (soup of the day) as a starter.Selleriesuppe for only 1 euro?”, thought I.  “Well, why not give it a go…if nothing else, it’s an inexpensive experiment.”

My boyfriend, who was sitting next to me at the time, took a very tiny spoonful and confirmed that it was “edible” (hey, that’s a real compliment in his book).

With the bitter winter days and lashings of snow still blizzarding down upon us in southern Germany, soup makes a frequent appearance on the bill of fare in our household at the moment (the fact that it’s a sneaky way of getting my I-survived-perfectly-well-on-schnitzel-and-fries-before-you-came-along boyfriend to get his 5 a day is an added bonus).


INGREDIENTS – 9 heads of celery, 1 teaspoonful of salt, nutmeg to taste, 1 lump of sugar, 1/2 pint of strong stock, a pint of cream, and 2 quarts of boiling water.


Given that the original recipe is “sufficient for 10 persons”, a lot of celery is required for this little puppy.  As I only had 1 head of celery and wasn’t even sure if we’d like this version, I decided to divide the quantities by 9.

I used my usual stock instead of Mrs Beeton’s stock (generally, I use either my own home-made stock as a by-product of cooking vegetables, or use a dry vegetable stock mix from Alnatura (a fabulous German organic food chain) added to water).

I soon sensed that there wasn’t enough water or stock to made the celery tender enough, so I added an extra splash of liquid at each stage as required (water, stock, cream – well, I topped the cream up with low-fat milk just before serving – he’ll never know).

“It’s really not bad!” confirmed my somewhat-surprised boyfriend when we took our first spoonful.

OK, so you can still clearly taste the celery (it’s Celery Soup, after all) but even I found it quite appealing and hearty.

Although the 1/9 quantity of ingredients should have been sufficient for 1 -2 serves, altogether it made 4 medium-sized serves.

Perfect – because I’m heading back for more.


Celery Soup (Recipe 122):

Sometimes, Cheating Really is OK

February 11, 2010

I really feel that sometimes, Mrs Beeton is out to kill me.  (Headline:  Long-Dead Victorian Entices 21st Century Gal to Her Death by Excess Fat’).

2 oz / 50 g of butter in a small batch of soup?  That’s what her Parsnip Soup recipe calls for.  Perhaps it’s just me – after all, until I moved in with my boyfriend, I was free to cook however I wished.  Not that I was / am against fat per se – as a flavour enhancer etc., (good) fat definitely has a role to play.  I guess I’ve become über-sensitive since shacking up with Mr Don’t Skimp on the Butter – I dare not let him cook without supervision, unless I want that new pack of butter and container of cream to disappear into the saucepan.  Maybe I’ve just lost my sense of perspective on these things.

It’s a freezing winter’s day (minus 4 degrees with sawdust-like snow whipping through the air) and soup is what’s needed to warm us both up.


INGREDIENTS – 1 lb. of sliced parsnips, 2 oz. of butter, salt and cayenne to taste, 1 quart of stock No. 106.

Mode.—Put the parsnips into the stewpan with the butter, which has been previously melted, and simmer them till quite tender. Then add nearly a pint of stock, and boil together for half an hour. Pass all through a fine strainer, and put to it the remainder of the stock. Season, boil, and serve immediately.


Sometimes, I really think that cheating ought to be condoned.

My boyfriend was due home in 45 minutes and I wanted the soup to be ready when he got here (the less he sees of the preparation, the more likely he is to try something). If the parsnip pieces were smaller, I figured, then the total preparation time surely ought to be reduced.

So, I put the raw parsnip in the blender and reduced it to tiny fragments, before popping it in the saucepan with the butter.

Rather than ‘simmer’, the mix was more or less lightly fried (and what a deliciously biscuity scent fried parsnip has!  Mmmm).  After this, I added the stock and let it infuse as recommended for 30 minutes.  Then I put it through the blender again and added more stock (I confess – the stock is my usual organic vegetable stock powder from an organic chain store here in Germany).

With my boyfriend, I sometimes like to play the game of  ”Guess what’s in this?”

“Mmmm yeah not bad.  Is there coconut milk in this?  Is there cinnamon?”

No.  Try again.

“Well I don’t know.  But did you cheat on Beeton?  Are you cheatin’ Beeton? Is this Cheatin’ Beeton Soup?” he joked as he slulluped down his soup.

This is a really nice soup.  The overwhelming taste theme is ‘sweet’, but not in an unpleasant way.

By the way, tonight we decided to move to Canada within the next year or so.  I really hope they have Farmers’ Markets over there that are at least the equal to German markets!


Parsnip Soup (Recipe 141):

In the kitchen, I mean.

Doctor, Doctor

January 12, 2010

My poor boyfriend is ill.

It started yesterday with a complaint of back ache, followed this morning by a sore throat, runny nose and puppy dog ‘have-pity-on-poor-me’ eyes.

Unfortunately, Mrs Beeton doesn’t list ‘man flu’ in the index of her chapter, ‘The Doctor‘.  However, by close questioning and logical deduction, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s suffering from a wee bit of a cold.

Before turning to modern remedies, I took a look at what Household Management has to offer.


TO CURE A COLD.—Put a large teacupful of linseed, with 1/4 lb. of sun raisins and 2 oz. of stick liquorice, into 2 quarts of soft water, and let it simmer over a slow fire till reduced to one quart; add to it 1/4 lb. of pounded sugar-candy, a tablespoonful of old rum, and a tablespoonful of the best white-wine vinegar, or lemon-juice. The rum and vinegar should be added as the decoction is taken; for, if they are put in at first, the whole soon becomes flat and less efficacious. The dose is half a pint, made warm, on going to bed; and a little may be taken whenever the cough is troublesome. The worst cold is generally cured by this remedy in two or three days; and, if taken in time, is considered infallible.


It all sounds rather fascinating,(and where can I get a piece of real liquorice in 2010?) but I can’t say I have the time or inclination to put together such a concoction when a speedy cure is required.  Although, I have to admit that I can see the merits of using a purely natural remedy, as opposed to something full of sweeteners and chemicals from the local pharmacy.

While reading through the section ‘The Doctor‘, I came across some rather amusing – and apparently quite common – Victorian ails.  This one is my absolute favourite:

Hysterics.—These fits take place, for the most part, in young, nervous, unmarried women. They happen much less often in married women… (the fastest way to get a ring on my finger if ever I heard one)

And how about this one:

How to Bleed: In cases of great emergency, such as the strong kind of apoplexy, and when a surgeon cannot possibly be obtained for some considerable time, the life of the patient depends almost entirely upon the fact of his being bled or not. We therefore give instructions how the operation of bleeding is to be performed, but caution the reader only to attempt it in cases of the greatest emergency. (‘…his being bled or not…’ – so ‘she’ wouldn’t be bled in an emergency, too?)

It’s not entirely fair of me to poke fun of the entire medical chapter, because there are some wonderful pieces of advice mixed in. For starters, I intend to try this cure tonight on my two blue bruised knees (a result of ice-skating for the first time in 20 years):

BRUISES AND THEIR TREATMENT.—The best application for a bruise, be it large or small, is moist warmth; therefore, a warm bread-and-water poultice in hot moist flannels should be put on, as they supple the skin. (However, it would take a very brave soul to try out the advice given in the very next sentence, “If the bruise be very severe, and in the neighbourhood of a joint, it will be well to apply ten or a dozen leeches over the whole bruised part, and afterwards a poultice…”)


I opted instead – to my boyfriend’s great relief – for some hot chicken soup from the local Chinese take-away, as well as plenty of love and attention.  If not the speediest of cures, at least he can’t say it isn’t a pleasant one!

Day 49: Bread-astrophe

January 6, 2010

It was utterly, utterly awful.

I tried, I really did, to like it.

I kept thinking, ‘What about all those extremely poor people in Victorian times, who quite literally had little to eat and for whom such a soup, if not wholly nutritious, at least filled their stomachs for a while?’.

For these people, Mrs Beeton’s cheaply-made Bread Soup must have been something of a blessing in disguise.  A few cuts of stale bread, some butter and stock, and you had yourself a filling dish.

I’ve tried something similar before, in the canteen of the company I work with here in Germany.  Bread soup makes an occasional appearance on the menu and I have to say it tastes pretty good.  As I now realise, the version I’ve tried obviously had more ingredients than the one given in Household Management.


INGREDIENTS: 1 lb of bread crusts, 2 oz. butter, 1 quart of common stock.

Mode: Boil the bread crusts in the stock with the butter; beat the whole with a spoon, and keep it boiling till the bread and stock are well mixed.  Season with a little salt.


Often, Isabella Beeton writes a comment against the title such as ‘Excellent’.  In this case, she sticks to ‘Economical‘ – no doubt if you had to eat such a soup out of necessity, you weren’t going to be under any illusions that it was a gourmet meal.  She does, however, eulogise the goodness of bread in a paragraph following the recipe by way of commiseration.

We took a spoonful each – but couldn’t even swallow it.

I used a mix of white and brown bread / crusts which, as my boyfriend pointed out, may have contributed to the cloggy dry taste. (”Why did you use that ‘fruity’ bread? Mrs Beeton didn’t have fruity bread”). I still maintain that even if it was made with just one type of bread, there was no way this soup was going to be palatable unless you willed yourself for it to be so.  But, I’ll try to make it again soon to test this theory.

If you were living in poverty and meals such as bread soup were all you could afford, then how utterly petty it seems to imprison someone or transport them to places like Australia if they stole a measly loaf of stale bread.

It’s now got me thinking – what other ‘economical’ dishes were made in the poorer households 150 years ago?

Day 39: Some Vegetable Soup Please, My Good Man

December 27, 2009

After Christmas comes the traditional I-never-want-to-cook-or-eat-again lull.

It usually passes after a few days, but until then it can be a bit of a challenge to motivate myself into going anywhere near the kitchen.

However, the shops aren’t open until tomorrow and I need to come up with some ways to use up the left-overs and anything else sitting there in the fridge (aside from giving them to our greediest cat, who should have been called Hoover, in my opinion.  She’ll eat pretty much anything).

In the fruit & vegetable drawer I have:  parsley, 1 kilo of bananas, potatoes, onions, carrots, beans, broccoli, the end of a courgette. lemons and clementines.  Plus a small handful of sorry-looking mushrooms.

A soup would seem the most obvious use of some, if not, most, of these ingredients.  The first two recipes I spotted as I skimmed through Household Management are perhaps not the most enticing:

LEEK SOUP:  Ingredients – A sheep’s head…

KALE BROSE (a Scotch Recipe): Ingredients – Half an ox-head or cow-heel

or even

SOUP A LA SOLFERINO (Sardinian Recipe): Ingredients – 4 eggs, 1/2 pint of cream…

After the overwhelming richness of Christmas fare, now’s not the time for culinary extravagance.

Eventually I find a recipe that suits most purposes – Vegetable Soup (Version 3).

INGREDIENTS – 6 potatoes, 4 turnips, or 2 if very large; 2 carrots, 2 onions; if obtainable, 2 mushrooms; 1 head of celery, 1 large slice of bread, 1 small saltspoonful of salt, 1/4 saltspoonful of ground black pepper, 2 teaspoonfuls of Harvey’s sauce, 6 quarts of water.

I didn’t have  any turnip or celery to hand, so I added 1 extra carrot and onion.  As for ‘Harvey’s sauce’, a little research revealed that it is a (by the looks of it) rather strong-tasting condiment used to enhance the base flavour of whatever you’re cooking.  As a very approximate substitute, I also added a marinade of a little mixed garlic, soy sauce, vinegar and paprika to the final soup.

You’re supposed to cook it for 3 hours, but my hungry stomach just couldn’t wait that long.  After 2 hours, I took it off the stove and blended it quickly before serving it up for a simple lunch. Very nice.

Vegetable Soup recipe: (Recipe 159)

Harvey’s Sauce recipe:

Day 29: Head Fakery at the Dinner Table

December 16, 2009

Tonight is Vegetarian Night (sorry, ‘’Meat Reduced Night”).

Or, it was supposed to be.

With heavily-sighed reluctance, my boyfriend recently agreed to eat two meat-free meals per week,  so we can eat the same main dish together sometimes.  I use ‘’meat reduced’’ rather than ‘’vegetarian’’ as a bit of a head-fake term.  Not that it fools him much.

I had it all planned out – stuffed Butternut Squash, roast veg and a mushroom sauce on the side.  Usually, if he doesn’t get too involved in the preparation (cue locked kitchen door and refusal to answer any statement starting with ‘What is that…?’ or ‘’Are you going to do it like that?”), then he’ll give most things a try.

Then came the proverbial spanner.

“I’ll be home soon – I finished an hour early,’’ came his unexpected call.

Scheiße (shit).

I was pretty ravenous already and knew he would be too.  Unless I came up with something quickly, I could see myself being persuaded to order a pizza.

I lunged for Household Management and began panic-scanning the soup recipes.

Potato Soup (Version 1)

INGREDIENTS – 4 lbs. of mealy potatoes, boiled or steamed very dry, pepper and salt to taste, 2 quarts of stock (from recipe no. 105).

Luckily I’d sent him on a detour to the local building centre to buy a new kitchen tap and to check out some shelves, gaining me some valuable minutes to get the soup on and rescue  Meat Reduced Night.

Naturally, that ol’ spanner hadn’t yet finished clunking round the works.

B: “Just calling to check how much I should spend on the shelf.”

Me: (gasping slightly as I dashed about the kitchen) “Happy to leave that up to you,” (chopping frantically at the potatoes and shooing away our greedy black cat)

B: “€15 or €17…?” he pressed.

Me: “The cheaper the better.  Up to you.  See you soon!”

Hang up the phone.  Push cat off bench.  Attempt to fill saucepan with water.  Forget tap is broken.  Water sprays out, drenching my face and top.  Cue swearing.  Phone rings.

B: “Wasn’t there something else I was supposed to get?”

Me: “No no,” I trilled with false calm, “I think that’s everything.”

2 minutes later, I got him off the topics of shelf pros and cons and off the phone.

Hasten to finish soup and get the main course on.  Shove cat off bench again.  Open cupboard to get something.  Half the contents crash out.  Cue more swearing.  Forget tap is broken. Again. Water sprays out, drenching my face and top.  Again. Cue swearing.  Again.

Just as his keys were inserted into the key hole, the soup was miraculously done.

Taking inspiration from one of the soup variations listed under the first recipe, I tossed in a piece of wholegrain bread to bulk the soup up and give it a healthy boost.  I told him about it but didn’t give specifics. Another bit of head-fakery on my part, as my boyfriend despises non-white bread (‘’fruity bread’’).  Well, he never asked me what type of bread I put in…

We enjoyed the soup.  Simple and (barring distractions) super quick.  I added some oregano and a dash of cream to finish it off before serving.

As for my boyfriend’s reaction to the main dish, well, you probably don’t want to know.

Potato Soup Recipes: (Recipe 145 – 47)