Today is the first day of winter in Australia.
And it’s cold!!! Cold for Aussies means fifteen degrees. Brrrghhh.
It’s sprung up on us because we generally skip autumn and go from the rays of summer straight into a determined chill. It always takes me by surprise and yes, I’m subsequently writing this in a robe and slippers.
So it seems like the perfect time to talk soup and I have many fond memories to ladle out.
Like this ciorbă de fasole cu costiţă afumată soup I had in Sighișoara, Romania last year. I’d heard about an infamous Transylvanian soup, in this case made with beans and smoked ham served in bread, and wanted to track it down. The soup was just as dramatic as the medieval fortress of Sighișoara itself and so delicious. I took particular joy in scraping the inside to extract broth-soaked bread, layer by layer.
I only made it about halfway through before my stomach gave up. It filled me up for a day and was only 15 lei – around €4.
My good old friend, Estonian elk soup, is the ultimate comfort food in a bowl, served alongside elk pies and pickles and accessorised with a complimentary Estonian wench to serve and rouse on guests.
I wonder if there’s a symbiotic relationship between how cold you feel and how much you enjoy your soup – I’d say definitely yes.
I remember feeling like an icy pole when I went to Iceland. And I was there in summer.
I constantly took refuge in the shops to momentarily melt and peruse expensive wool jumpers.
In between I’d dart out for a hot dog and then some Icelandic fish soup which is rich, warming and full local seafood. My all-time favourite bowl was in Húsavík (the self-appointed whale watching capital of the world) with my friends Elfa and Siggi.
My favourite soup for colour is always borscht and the versions I tried in Poland, especially at quirky milk bars, were sensational. The milk bars often serve a hot and cold version, both equally cerise and equally good, especially alongside a pierogi or five.
Now let’s talk about goulash.
But that’s not a soup; I can hear your muttering.
Well in Hungary it is. Somehow the rest of the world misread the brief and turned it into more of a stew-like dish but on its home turf, gulyás is decidedly a soup. And boy do the Hungarians do an excellent job in merchandising this signature dish.
Every festival or event you go to will have at least one stand with a cauldron-esque contraption full of the steaming stuff. They ladle out the beef and vegetable broth enthusiastically and serve it with chunks of bread.
I can’t talk soup without talking Irish seafood chowder. My most memorable bowl was in Doolin, a windswept cliff-hugging town in County Clare. Local seafood, tender potatoes and cream combine like some kind of x-rated threesome. It’s the only thing one should eat at the local pub with the bellow of traditional Irish music in the background.
As a final wild card I’m going to throw in gazpacho – that’s for those of you on the other side of the world. I love love love gazpacho and don’t think I’ve ever had a bad version anywhere in Spain. This one came from Mallorca and the refreshing chill of the tomato, garlic and chilli was the perfect accompaniment to the hot sun of the island.
It almost makes me want to take off my slippers…