Friday 25 February 2011


We made this soup on Sunday.

We made it again on Wednesday.

That's the definition of a keeper, right?

It has a little of everything, so little that I wondered whether it would amount to enough, the 35g of pearl barley looked particularly paltry. Yet somehow it all just comes together and becomes enough. Enough to have broth, vegetables and barley in each mouthful. Enough to just need a little bread and cheese on the side. Enough to feel sated and warmed after a grey February day.

Vegetable and Pearl Barley Soup from Canteen by Cass Titcombe, Dominic Lake and Patrick Clayton-Malone
Serves 4 (or 2-3 as a main course with bread and cheese)

1 medium onion
100g celery, leaves reserved
100g swede
100g carrots
100g leeks
25ml olive oil
1 garlic cloves, chopped
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 litre vegetable stock (we used chicken)
35g pearl barley
handful of shredded savoy cabbage
handful of fresh curly or flat-lead parsley, stalks discarded
salt and black pepper

Peel or trim the vegetables and cut them into roughly 1cm dice. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and sweat the onion, celery stalks, swede, carrots and leeks for about 15 minutes without letting them brown. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the stock and salt to taste, stir and bring to the boil to cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the pearl barley and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the shredded cabbage, celery and parsley leaves. Bring back to the boil and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Season with lots of black pepper and serve hot.

Thursday 10 February 2011


The last few weeks knocked me out. Eating a little too much, drinking a little too much, a sore throat and then a cold. It made me a little quieter and a little more tired. It also made me spend 3 days curled up on the sofa with a book, this book, and now this book. There have been lots of vegetables, mainly root vegetables, it is still February after all. Sigh. There has been soup, chicken poached with lentils, mince cooked with grated roots, vegetarian haggis (sorry Scotland) with mashed swede, celeriac and potato. There have been salads of squash, beetroot, wild rice and quinoa. On Saturday there was leftover squash with tiny pieces of fried chorizo. This all feels right for now. Hearty but healthy.

But it feels like there is some light on the horizon. At 5pm, when I leave work, it is no longer pitch black. It may still have snowed this week and last week we had a day that included rainbows, sun, hail, thunder, rain, sleet and snow but that tiny bit of light is a sign that I can start to think about Spring and Summer.

And, in that vein, I've signed up to do the Moonwalk. For the third time. Last time I felt okay afterwards so fingers crossed that this year we'll have a dry night and another beautiful 3am sunrise. Now I just need to decide how to decorate the bra, I feel like I may have peaked too soon with 2009's lovely felt watermelons with shiny black beads for seeds.

Then, a week after the Moonwalk, when my leg muscles have recovered, we will be boarding a plane (actually three planes) to go to Seattle, Portland and New York. I'm excited. Very excited. I'll probably be boring people with just how excited I am for the next four months. Sorry. I'll try to keep it to a minimum round here but feel free to start bombarding me with suggestions.

No recipe today, again, although I do recommend frying a little spicy chorizo and stirring it through some roasted squash. Instead here are just a few things for now, for these days of looking forward to Spring.

Great House by Nicole Krauss. I loved The History of Love.



Zebra by Beach House. It gets stuck in my head every time I hear it.

Tree blossom, a first glimpse of early pink flowers on an otherwise grey day.