Category Archives: Soup


Yesterday, I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with my husband and my wonderful friends, Anne and Ryan.  Yes, I know this post is a day late, but just try to blog after drinking a few glasses of Black Bush with Black Velvet (Guinness and champagne) chasers, and see how far you’ll get. 

Although my family cannot claim to have any Irish blood in it whatsoever, my mom always liked to make corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day (my husband is about a quarter Irish, though).  And I know it’s currently in vogue to prepare more “authentic” meals than corned beef, I still like to make (and eat) it.   Besides, people expect it.  This year, I decided to supplement it a little bit, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover a St. Patrick’s Day menu in the Lucques restaurant cookbook when I was looking for a recipe for Guinness ice cream.  I surprised myself by preparing nearly the entire menu.

As a starter  (this wasn’t in the cookbook),  I served Irish chedder and Cashel blue (also Irish, from Neal’s Yard), and made Irish soda bread as an accompaniment.   The soda bread is pretty easy to make – I think my husband could make it.  But next time, I’ll forgo sprinkling the sugar on top.

The first course in the cookbook was a pureed watercress soup a la minute, with croutons spread with “gentlemen’s relish”.  The “relish” was basically an anchovy butter with shallots, parsley and lemon.  The soup was a little on the mild side, but the relish perked it up quite nicely.  I also threw in a bunch of chives at the end.

The next course was buttered cockles on champ.  Since “cockles” are pretty rare here on the west coast (they’re not indigenous to Northern America, nor are they farmed here), I substituted littleneck clams.  The clams are sauteed with green onions, then white wine (I substituted champagne) and broth are added to steam them open, then they’re finished with a handful of parsley, snow pea sprouts, peas, butter and more green onions.  Champ (pronounced “sham”)   is a traditional Irish mashed potato dish.  There’s as many versions of it as there are cooks making it, but it usually calls for loosely mashed potatoes with lots of butter, cream and green onions.  When we visited my father-in-law, he prepared a version with smoked ham and mayonnaise.  I decided to go tweak Lucques’ version, which called for green garlic instead of green onions (I used both).    I sauteed the aromatics in plenty of butter, added cream, then added unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes that were previously boiled whole and smashed with the heel of my hand, then mashed them a little further over the heat as the cream reduced and absorbed into the potatoes.  Yummy and heart-stopping.  Lucques’ cookbook also suggested served brown scones with this, but I decided that it was a (carb) bridge too far.   

The main course, obviously, was corned beef with boiled cabbage, turnips, potatoes and carrots.  Instead of boiling the brisket for the entire time, the Lucques cookbook says to just bring the brisket to a boil, add onions and spices, then cover to pot and cook it in the oven for four hours.  The brisket is then removed from the broth and baked in the oven in a separate dish at a higher temperature to “crisp” the top.  In the meantime, the other vegetables are cooked in the remaining broth.  I made a parsley-whole grain mustard-shallot sauce to go with this, but I think I would have like fresh horseradish as well. 

Finally, for dessert, we had Guinness chocolate spice bundt cake, with Guinness ice cream.  I’ve made Guinness chocolate cakes before, and the recipe I’d used previously was a dense 3 layer chocolate cake with a ganache frosting, which was quite a production to bake and assemble.  I think that the spices, along with the addition of molasses, in the cake served to add extra oomph to the Guinness flavor, which was overwhelmed by the chocolate in the previously made version.  The ice-cream also had molasses in it, which also served to amp up the Guinness flavor.  My husband, who proclaimed he’d only have “a little taste” of the ice cream, found himself scooping up a third serving.  The only difficulty I found with the ice cream is that it was slightly too icy.  Next time, I’ll use only cream and no milk, plus I’ll boil down the molasses with the Guinness a little longer. 

 Alas, I don’t have many pictures, but I take comfort in the fact the any pictures taken would have borne witness to general debauchery, so you’ll have to take my word that it was a tasty meal.  A hostess’s hint:  These courses are pretty heavy, so start serving early and space lots of time in between.  Do as much of the prep work (chopping all the veggies and herbs, baking the cake, making the sauces, freezing the ice cream, etc.) as possible the day before.  That way, you can celebrate instead of being stuck in the kitchen the entire time.  And, uh, it’s a lot easier to cook while inebrieted if your mise is already in place.

sullung-tang: Korean beef knucklebone soup

homemade sullungtang: aka beef knucklebone soup, originally uploaded by c(h)ristine.


This soup is one of those “special” soups not because it takes a lot of skill to prepare, but because it takes so much time to make. I like to boil this soup for at least 8 hours, until the gelatin falls off the beef knuckle bones in soft and savory pieces that float in the millky white broth and then melt in your mouth.

I love this soup–it is a childhood comfort dish for me–but it has become one of those dishes I make while the hubby is out of town; the concept of beef knuckle bones is just not that appealing a thought to most Western palates.

What’s a “beef knuckle?” It’s the cow’s lower leg, including the hoof itself. It is damn tasty. You do not know what you’re missing if you’re saying “ewwwww” right now, you savage beast. 😛
aka beef knucklebone soup

The house is filled with the savory, gamey aroma of the soup while I boil it for hours and hours, checking to see if the gelatin has softened (it starts out solid, then it becomes very very chewy and tough like tendon, and then ultimately something soft and delicate (you can feel the give of the gelatin under a spoon). The soft and delicate stage is what you want).

This soup takes a lot of patience, but on a homebound, cold winter day alone, this is a comforting activity. Keep simmering, putter around the house, wait for soup, savor smells, feel the anticipation. When you serve it to someone who KNOWS what this soup is, they’ll feel the love–after all, it took you 8 hours (or more) to make this soup!

Today, I’m feeling the love for myself! I think I need it–for some reason I’ve been in the doldrums. Life seems complicated and loud–so I decided to reach for a simple, soothing soup with a good dose of patience. For the past twenty-four hours, I’ve been focused on one thing: this soup. Yah. Like dudes diminish their focus to a video game for a day, I’ll tunnel on soup, thank you.

aka beef knucklebone soup

As with many Korean dishes like sam gye tang ginseng chicken, this soup is known to have medicinal qualities. My health-conscious mother always told me this was “bone soup, with lots of calcium!” It does have a lot of calcium. (Today, it’s been healthy to me in other ways).

Haha–bone soup! Because were totally Americanized kids, she didn’t tell us WHICH bones until we had fallen in love with the soup.

Some people like to add sliced daikon radish to the soup (I do, too–though I didn’t have daikon radish at home this time). The essence of the soup, however, requires very little but the beef knucklebones (called “sagol or “tongani” at Korean grocery stores).

Recipe follows after the jump…

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Beef Mushroom Barley soup

Beef Mushroom Barley soup, originally uploaded by c(h)ristine.

Late November: time to pull out the heavy blankets and snuggle up at night, shivering as you hit the cold sheets and wait to warm up. When you do find yourself enveloped in big fluffy blankets and warmth, that is just the essence of why I love Fall and Winter. I love that feeling of being bundled up in the chilly air.

That feeling of enveloping warmth is what a cup of hearty soup feels like.

Much as I love the cold weather, I love being in cold weather with a warm jacket, or sipping some hot soup and feeling my belly fill up while watching the leaves fall outside. Yes, you can have it both ways.

Here is a soup to match the weather: beef mushroom barley soup. I’m enjoying it tonight while the temps plunge below freezing (a big deal here in Berkeley) and I hope it helps me fight my sniffles.  As you see here, I’ve piled my soup high with the barley and beef and mushrooms and skimped on the broth (though it’s a lot soupier in reality).  I based it on the recipe at epicurious, adding my favorite garlic, upping the barley and such–in the end, I adjusted this recipe according to my own tastes.  I welcome you to adjust it further!

Recipe follows after the jump

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from summer to autumn: provencal tomato soup with rice

tomato provencal soup with rice, originally uploaded by c(h)ristine.

I went to watch “Stranger than Fiction” today (which incidentally is a wonderful movie, especially poignant for fiction writers). The connection with this movie to tomato provencal soup? The movie theater was across the street from a Sunday farmer’s market.

Though I love farmer’s markets, and find them incredibly invigorating and fun, I’m often too lazy to coordinate my schedule and get myself over to a bounty-of-local-harvest-that-is-only-available-for-a-few-hours-once-a-week. I know. Horrible. I kick myself every week as I browse through second tier fruit and veg at a chain grocery store during my odd night hour shopping expeditions. Even my local favorite, Berkeley Bowl, cannot keep up with produce a mere few hours off the farm. But–I am not so lazy that when a farmer’s market is across the street from I’m supposed to be that I will not go visit! So off to the farmer’s market I went.

Visits to the farmer’s market bring me a weird inner peace and inspiration. How can I feel that way about produce? But I do. For me, I have similar experiences staring at art pieces in a museum. Maybe it’s not so big a leap: after all, these are all creations.

Just look at these green onions:

farmer's market: beautiful green onions

How beautiful are they? How the purple and green interplay? How there is such a perfect and striking balance? Could I write a story so natural and brilliant?

Or take a look at these tomatoes:

farmer's market:  last tomatoes of the season

They’re the last tomatoes of the season–all over the market were signs that declared, “Last week for grapes” and “Last Early Girl Tomatoes.” Immediately, before they had even disappeared, I became nostalgic! I missed them already!

I stood, in the middle of the market, arms weighed down with yams, tangerines, mushrooms, and one huge brussel sprout stalk, feeling kind of sad and also inspired and also peaceful and happy. There were fewer stalls than I’d been last, in the height of summer, and there was a sort of empty feeling. Then again, it’s autumn, my favorite season, and I delighted in this very natural transition.

How to deal with these mixed feelings? I stared at the tomatoes. How could I not have the “last Early Girl tomatoes” of the season? They felt more special somehow. I gathered a couple pounds of them, feeling their soft smooth skins in my hands; they were tender to the touch. So fragile, and vulnerable these last tomatoes were!

What could I make with these tomatoes? I thought of Sam at Becks & Posh who herself bought a 20 lb box and made sauce reserves of the last tomatoes, so precious are the taste of summer tomatoes. I felt ambivalent and yet whimsical: Summer, Autumn. Tomatoes…and soup. I decided that these tomatoes were enough to make a soup to pay homage to both summer and autumn.

No normal soup would do, either. It could not be an “average tomato soup.” So I decided to make a provencal tomato soup with rice. I am a fan of this particular recipe for the balance between decadent saffron and irreverent red-pepper. It makes me think of the French countryside with a bit of a kick. What a way to celebrate the last tomatoes of the season.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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potato leek soup

potato leek soup, originally uploaded by c(h)ristine.

When the nighttime temperature dips and the sun sets early in the evening, it’s time to break out the sweaters, jackets, winter blankets, and cook some soup. For me, soup is the ultimate comfort food: simple, filling, and even better when eaten the next day as leftovers. I also like the concept of one-pot meals too.

I was wondering what to do for dinner last week–I was home alone, and pondering the notion of just skipping dinner. But I did not feel like skipping dinner, and I did not feel like anything cold, and I did not feel like making a series of snacks for dinner, and I did not feel like making something elaborate, either. It was dinner for one on a chilly night.

I kept opening the refrigerator, taking inventory as usual, mixing up the ingredients in my head. Among the carrots and onions and tofu and various other ingredients, there were leeks and potatoes–could I make a minestrone soup? For some reason, I was not in a tomato-mood. I pondered making a Korean soup, but I wanted something heartier: I would make potato leek soup.

Usually, I must profess, when it comes to these sorts of soups, I skip the pureeing step. Just too lazy, and I figure: doesn’t it just all taste the same in the mouth? (I know that texture plays a HUGE role in taste, but my laziness made me answer, “Right, it’s all the same ingredients.”) But once I got cooking, I was filled with an enthusiasm for my “dinner for one.” Why NOT go all the way? It has been one of my personal challenges to cook myself satisfying and elegant “dinners for one.” I would puree the damn thing and make a beautiful potato leek soup.

I did.

The steps are very easy–I caught up with “Grey’s Anatomy” on my TiVO as the leeks and potatoes browned, then simmered. I pushed pause to puree the broth and softened vegetables, and I settled onto the couch with a tasty and comforting bowl of soup to watch the end of the episode.

There are many potato leek soup recipes out there–many of them involve cream and can get quite heavy. I made a very light version of this soup, choosing to garnish it with a small dollop of light sour cream. (You can also omit the sour cream, too–it tastes yummy both ways).

On another note: my hubby came home right after I’d finished my bowl and asked, “What is the yummy smell?” He eagerly had a bowl of this soup, too. There was barely any leftover, though this soup tastes quite good the next day as well.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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a lentil soup for writers

saturday dinner: Alexandra’s Greek-style lentil rice soup, originally uploaded by c(h)ristine.

What is it about writing that makes me hungry for beans and rice? Some of my favorite meals at a writing colony this past summer involved beans and rice. Maybe it’s the protein, maybe it’s the simplicity of one meal in a pot. Maybe it’s the idea of being able to spoon food into my mouth with one hand, while typing on the other–oh, if it were only true that I do get on such writing streaks that I cannot stop to pause even to eat! But, if that were to happen, I couldn’t do that with steak.

So when my friend offered to make a lentil soup during a weekend writing retreat, I happily consented. We were up in the mountains, with the temperatures falling below freezing point at night–the idea of lentil soup seemed so fitting. Autumn hits the Sierras first, and I’m looking forward to many more soup nights over the next months when Autumn arrives in the Bay Area too! Oh, and hopefully lots more productive writing weekends dedicated to my fiction.

I have her permission to type up her recipe for a Greek-style lentil rice soup here. I say Greek-STYLE because we missed a couple of the ingredients that would make it more authentic. Namely, we were missing a splash of vinegar that normally would brighten this dish and add a tanginess that according to my (Greek) friend would make it wholly Greek.

Recipe follows…

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(sour) lemon sorrel soup

lemon sorrel soup

Ever since tea and cookies mentioned the lemon sorrel soup she made for her mother back during the rains of March, I’ve been meaning to try and make some for myself.

I love lemon and have, in the last few years, developed a liking for sour flavors. That, and I like soup a lot. That, and I like soups with greens in them. But sorrel is not too commonly sold in stores, and I shelved the soup for a future date.

When I went to the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmer’s Market last week, I made a few pleasant discoveries, not the least of which were some brilliant swiss chard and…sorrel!

swiss chard at the SF Ferry Building Farmer's Market

I made a few adaptations to tea’s original sour lemon and sorrel soup recipe. I added swiss chard early, to the sauteed onions…and I added rice along with the chicken broth (I substituted the vegetable broth for chicken broth) for a heartier soup (I really like rice in soups). I also left out mushrooms, simply because I didn’t have any on hand. I garnished my bowl of soup with a small dollop of creme fraiche (just because I like creme fraiche). The creme fraiche gave the soup an even tangier edge.

This makes for a very sour, unique soup. If you like lemons and sour flavors, you will really devour this soup. On a cold and foggy day (and there are many mornings like that in the San Francisco bay area in summertime), this is such a pleasure to eat. Thanks, Tea!

lemon sorrel soup