Now that we’re in lockdown in France and our weekly market has been annulé, or cancelled until further notice, I decided to make the most of the vegetables that I had and came up with a recipe that I called Compost Soup. Its ingredients comprise of everything you normally throw away or put onto the compost heap. As with most ideas in life, someone had already thought of this one and I found recipes for Compost Broth on the internet and compost soup referring to a fertiliser mix to aid your composting. Also my friend Melanie in Los Angeles said the name Compost Soup might put people off, so I came up with Leaf to Root Soup, or as my mother in law used to say, ‘Gawd Knows What Soup.’
It’s quite simple and doesn’t really need a recipe at all, you just use what you’ve got which in my case was radish tops, slightly wrinkly potatoes, the green parts of a leek, asparagus stalks, a green pepper, some lank spinach, a stick of celery with root, some parsley a yellow onion, a garlic clove, half a red onion and some cooked peas from the night before. You can use anything you like, Carrots, parnips, apples, turnips, etc. but preferably organic so you can use the peel as well.
So wash whatever you have and roughly chop. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil, or any oil or butter, in a large pan, add the onions and cook for a few minutes until they’re nicely translucent and then add all the other vegetables minus the leafy ones.
Mix the chopped vegetables around with a spoon a few times to coat them in the oil and then turn down the heat, put on the lid and steam for five minutes to soften, making sure they don’t burn on the bottom of the pan.
Meanwhile boil a kettle, dissolve a stock cube or vegetable bouillon in approximately one litre of water and pour over the vegetables, (you can of course use your own home made stock here if you have any) making sure they’re well covered and add any herbs you have. I added a sprig of dried thyme and a couple of bay leaves.
Simmer for twenty minutes or until the potatoes and root vegetables can be easily pierced with a knife and add the leafy vegetables (radish tops, celery leaves, spinach, etc.) and peas, if using, and simmer for another few minutes. The leafy vegetables should be cooked down but still retain their colour.
Take off the heat. Let it cool for a few minutes and then blitz with a stick blender. You will then have to strain the soup as some of the vegetables and their peelings will be quite fibrous (this is the only vaguely tricky part). I do this with a hand mouli, or purée mill, but you can just as easily do it with a large sieve, pushing down on the vegetables with a wooden spoon.
Re-heat, add salt and pepper according to your taste (some vegetable stock cubes or bouillon can be salty) and your Leaf to Root Soup is ready to eat. If it’s too thick, add some stock; too thin, you can thicken it with some mash potato or frozen peas. I served it here with goats cheese toasts topped with celery pesto and a drizzle of olive oil. If vegan, just leave out the goat’s cheese.
Now because I haven’t posted here for so long, (I’ve been writing a novel – my excuse) I’m giving you another leaf to root recipe (this could run and run!) for Celery Leaf Pesto with Walnuts.
In France, celery is always sold with its leaves, even in the supermarkets. You can also buy one branch at a time, which is very useful if you don’t need a whole head. As with the radish tops, the leaves can be used in soups, or chopped and used like parsley to flavour a dish, or indeed to make a winter pesto. All you need is celery leaves, about two handfuls, (avoiding the very tough outer ones, these can go in the soup) a fat clove of garlic, 150cl of olive oil, 40 gms of walnuts, (you can also use almonds if that’s what you have) 40 gms of grated parmesan (or any other hard cheese you have) and off you go.
Whizz the garlic first, then add the celery leaves, walnuts and parmesan and then lastly the olive oil. Add some salt and pepper to taste.
Perfect for a isolation virtual drinks party to make your friends green with envy! (you could always leave little pots of it on your neighbours windowsill…)
Serve with the raw vegetables you used the leaves of to make your soup!!