Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Soup Pot and Fastnacht Coming to an End

Who can forget those childhood years when, on cold days and nights, the aroma from a big pot of hot, steaming soup or chowder, sitting on the back burner of the stove, would greet us as we came in from play or school?  It was comfort food.  Today there is no back burner unless one has a wood stove, but the aroma of soup still welcomes us home after a busy and cold day.  To serve soup around the kitchen table to the family has always been a time-honoured tradition.

So what better way to start a special meal with family or friends than to warm up our bodies and our taste buds with just such a beginning.  It can be the starter, the second course or the whole meal, depending on the soup and the circumstances.

This is now February and we have no snow, but it is still winter, thus soup can hit the spot.  We sometimes just have a bowl of nourishing soup for our lunch along with some good bread.  As a first or second course at a big dinner, we keep the portions small so that everyone enjoys what is still to be served. When entertaining guests for a special dinner we nearly always serve wine with the soup course.  Well, I do!  Surprisingly, they do compliment each other providing the wine is chosen carefully.  

(A light red wine or a rose wine goes well with a hearty beef soup.  With chicken or turkey soup, a flavorful white or a light rose.  Not everyone, though, wishes wine with their soup.  I happen to be one who does!)

We all have our favourite soup recipes.  Here are a few of mine, some I have made many times and a couple only occasionally, but all I liked.  As mentioned above, it depends on the occasion as to what type of soup you serve. 

On that long ago day when I cooked an 18-lb turkey for two people for Christmas dinner, we certainly had a lot of turkey left over!  So into the pot much of it went for soup, a recipe my mother had sent me that same year: 1954.  Her mother, my Grandma Tillie, had passed the recipe along to her.

This is a soup that just about everyone knows and likely nearly every woman has made.  I made it many times over the years with a few variations.  One can use chicken bones or goose bones as well; the latter we have made for the past few Christmases.  Hans now makes the soup--not I--in his own way.  This recipe, though, is from another era.

Mom's Chicken or Turkey Soup (from Grandma Tillie's Kitchen) 

Carcass from the leftover chicken or turkey, with some meat left on (J:  the more, the better)  This turkey had more to be eaten before using for the soup though!

Place bones into a large soup pot.  Add cold water to cover (6 to 8 cups or depending on how many turkey bones with meat on them)

12 peppercorns
1 bay leaf 
2 sprigs parsley, stems removed
1 onion, peeled and quartered
Celery tops, a handful of leaves and tender stems
1 raw carrot, cut into 2-inch pieces (1st one)
1 raw potato, peeled and quartered (1st one)
1 small to medium tomato, halved
Leftover vegetables from the fridge--if any
1 to 2 raw carrots, cut into 1/4 inch slices (2nd amount)
1 to 2 raw potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch pieces (2nd amount)
1/3 cup cooked long grain or minute rice (or barley)
1 can consomme, good chicken stock if you have any or two chicken cubes (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Maggi sauce to taste (optional; not in my grandmother's recipe) 

Place the bones into a large pot and cover them well with cold water.  Add the salt, peppercorns, bay leaf, onion, celery leaves with stems, the 1st amount of raw carrot and potato, the tomato and the leftover vegetables.  Let simmer two hours, covered, on low heat.

Let the soup partially cool, about an hour if possible.  Strain.  Remove the peppercorns (if you can find them) and the bay leaf.  Pick out the bones and remove all the meat, cutting it into bite-size pieces, setting the meat aside.  Push and rub the remaining vegetables through the strainer with the back of a spoon and place back into the pot with the broth until nothing more will go through the strainer.  Discard the leftover mush.

Return the strained stock back into the soup pot.  Stir to blend.  Bring the soup to a boil and when simmering well, throw in the 2nd amount of carrots and potatoes.  

Add the consomme or chicken cubes if needed.  Simmer half an hour.  Add the turkey or chicken that was set aside and the cooked rice or barley.  Heat well another 10 to 15 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  If wished, a little Maggi can be added.  (I didn't know about Maggi back in 1954 and neither did my mother or grandmother.  It is used a lot here in Germany.)  Pour into big soup bowls and serve with homemade-style bread.  Freeze the leftovers for another day. 

My sister Paula's bread loaves, all made the same day last summer.  Note the large tins, ones she uses for some of her bread. 

The perfect accompaniment for soup!

A soup we liked very much and one we have never seen on a menu in this part of the country was Soljanka, one we had several times when visiting the former DDR or, as the West knew it, East Germany. It was a Russian soup and one of the good things they left behind.  

We found it on the menu in a small train station Gasthaus in Joachimsthal, the town in which Hans grew up by the Werbellinsee in the Schorfheide--situated about 50 kilometers northeast of  Berlin.  I mentioned this soup in my blog East Meets West After the Wall, on March 1, 2011.  (I wrote two others about that area as well:  on 17 February and 7 March 2011.)

 Here is the recipe which I found in a small German cookbook (as shown) and which I translated from the German into English. The directions are basic.  It is years since we have enjoyed this so I do forget if we added anything to it.  I think everyone adds a little of something else when cooking.  A good idea for us to try it again ourselves!

Fleischsoljanka (Soljanka made with meat) - 4 to 6 servings
2 onions, finely chopped
40 grams margarine (approx. 1/4 cup or as needed)  J: I would use butter
2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste 
A good beef broth, about 6 cups, heated 
350 grams various types of meat and sausages (about 1/3 pound)
2 middle-size sour pickles 
1/2 bay leaf
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 lemon, peeled and seeded and cut into pieces or slices
Sour cream (no amount given so use your own judgment)
Garnish:  fresh parsley or dill, chopped

Saute the chopped onions in the butter until golden brown.  Add the tomato paste and a little of the broth.  Cut the meat and sausages into small pieces and add to the onions.  Cut the pickles into thin slices; add them to the onion mixture along with the bay leaf, capers and salt.  Cover well with the remaining hot broth.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  Add the lemon and sour cream.  For garnish:  sprinkle with chopped parsley or dill.  Serve.

The picture below is a facsimile but it looks much like that.

Cream of shrimp soup in my earlier days was one of my favourite dinner party soups.  It is a few years now since I have made it.  I served it for the first time in Winnipeg, shortly after moving there from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1970.  My recipe has its roots in one of the late Mary Moore's cooking columns published in the Regina Leader Post.  When we lived in Moose Jaw I read her column avidly.  This is a great starter to a special dinner.  (I no longer make it as Hans is allergic to shrimp.)

Cream of Shrimp Soup
6 tablespoons butter
2 to 3 teaspoons choppped green onion 
6 tablespoons flour
2 cubes chicken bouillon
1 cup 10 per cent cream (half and half)
1 cup milk (1st amount)
1  4-1/2 oz can small shrimp with liquid
2 to 3 tablespoons Sherry
1 cup milk (2nd amount) (or half milk and half cream if wished)
Chopped parsley or chives

Into the top of a double boiler melt the butter; saute the green onion.  Over direct heat, blend and stir for a minute or two, then add the flour, stirring to blend.  Now, stir in chicken boullion cubes, cream and milk (1st amount).  Add shrimp and their liquid.  Place pot over the bottom of the double boiler and cook covered for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (or hold over boiling water until serving time.) 

When about ready to serve, add Sherry.  This is now a condensed soup.  Stir in the last cup of milk or cream/milk. Heat through.  Taste for seasoning.  Ladle into cream soup cups and sprinkle with little mounds of finely chopped parsley or chives. If you wish a stronger flavour, add a little more Sherry or a dash of lemon juice.  


Another favourite of mine to start off a dinner party is Potage Basque, another of Mary Moore's recipes.  Everyone always tries to guess the main ingredient (the cabbage!)  I made this again a couple or so years ago now.

Potage Basque
2 tablespoons pot barley
2 cups meat broth 
  (beef or chicken or leftover broth from chicken, beef, veal, etc.) 
  I use a good chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter (or ham fat)
1/2 small to medium onion, chopped 
1 cup finely chopped green cabbage
2 tablespoons butter (2nd amount)
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk 
    (or for a richer soup, cream or half milk/half cream)
2 chicken cubes
1/2 teaspoon celery salt (optional)
5 slices bacon or 1/2 cup finely chopped cooked ham
Chopped parsley for sprinkling on top of bowls (optional)


Soak barley in broth 1 hour; simmer, covered, for 2 hours.  Set aside.  Saute chopped onion and cabbage in first amount butter, but do not brown.  Set aside.

Melt second amount butter, stir in flour and chicken cubes to blend, then stir in milk until thick.  Add to the barley and broth.  Stir in the sauteed cabbage and onions.  Taste it.  You may need to add salt.  

Chop and fry the bacon until dry and crisp but not brown; drain on paper towels. 

Serve the soup hot in preheated bowls; sprinkle with bacon.  Chopped parsley can also be sprinkled over the soup. 

A suggestion:  As with any dish and particularly with soups, one can add an ingredient that you think would add to the flavour or the intensity.  A little more of this or less of that as well. 

A good soup cookbook and one easy to read is the Betty Crocker book shown below.  It was published in 1985.  The picture above and the one at the end of my blog are from that little book.

I have one more recipe to share and it is one many will say, "No thanks!" if asked to try it.  I even wonder how come I decided to make it one day long ago and again a year or two ago for Hans and I.  I have two recipes for it, one from Mme Benoit, a wonderful cook from Quebec who had a TV program about food that I always watched.  The other is from a cookbook called All Seasons by Stella Standard.  Both recipes are excellent.  I do not like parsnips nor does Hans, but we both loved this soup.  When I first made it in the early 1970s, it was also a hit.

Parsnip Soup chez Mme Benoit - Serves 4 to 5

3 cups peeled parsnips, diced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups milk
1 cup light cream
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter over medium heat and thoroughly mix the vegetables (parsnips, onion, potatoes) in the melted butter.  When well coated, cover and simmer over low heat 10 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer, covered, 20 minutes, then taste for seasoning.

To serve, put a dice of butter in bottom of each bowl, sprinkle with paprika and pour the hot soup on top.  For a cream soup, blend in an electric blender after cooking.  (I made a cream soup.)

Parsnip Soup Stella Standard - Serves 6 or more
(Book:  Soups for All Seasons)
A very good friend gave me this book as a thank you for a dinner.

1-1/4 pounds parsnips
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup water
2 cups chicken broth
Milk (I used l liter plus)
1 cup heavy cream, scalded
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons rum or Madeira (I used Madeira)
Garnish:  parsley, chopped fried croutons

Trim and scrub the parsnips.  If they are young and ivory-coloured, they will not need scraping.  Cut them  through the centre and remove any tough core with a sharp-pointed knife.  Slice them fine.  Put them in a pot with the salt, pepper, butter and water.  Cover tightly and steam them until very tender.

Puree the contents of the pot with some of the broth.  Add the rest of the broth and milk to get the consistency of cream.  Scald the cream and mix it with the egg yolks and whisk it into the hot soup.  Reheat without boiling and add the rum or Madeira. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with crisp croutons.  Delicious!

As I write, Fastnacht in southwestern Germany is coming to an end.  Last evening was the beginning of the last week prior to Lent.  We went to the Gasthaus Rebstock for what we Canadians always called "Dirty Thursday" (Schmutziger Donnerstag in German), but the traditional name is Hemdglunker Nacht (night shirt evening).  Münchweier's traditional parade began at 7 p.m.  

The Wirt from the Rebstock is on the left in the picture below.  This is the main room with the bar.
It is said that the men and women go wild on that night thus the name given.  Whether they do or not is another thing altogether!  The Gasthaus was decorated for the occasion in all their main rooms. After the parade, everyone--participants and onlookers--came back to continue the celebration.  They all certainly outlasted us, as the last ones left at 5 a.m. the following morning!

Metzelsuppe is one the Rebstock always serves with their Schlactplatte, which they did just two weeks ago when we attended--along with friends--that special buffet.  The soup is made from the stock in which the meat and the different types of Wurst--including blood sausage--were cooked in. It is not one that I particularly like due to the idea of the Blutwurst.  But, it is very tasty nonetheless and nearly everyone had some to begin the dinner (other than me; however, I did taste it and it was very good).  Unfortunately, I do not have a recipe for this soup.  Here in our area of Germany it is usually made by a Metzger.  The Rebstock has its own butcher shop.

The Schlactplatte buffet below.  It was held during the Fastnacht days.

  The parade began at 7 p.m. beside the church and just behind the Rebstock.
 Everyone wearing one form or another of a night shirt or robe

The children are included and have a wonderful time

The decorated side room of the Rebstock below and ready for the crowd to enter.  The early birds have their seats.  The music will begin once the parade is over.

Below, a glimpse of the room behind me.  Still quiet.  We sat next to the bar with a good view of it all.  I am not in a nightgown although we have worn them in earlier years.  We each wore a Fastnachtmask chain around our necks though.

Lent is almost upon us.  A bowl of soup is without many calories so a good idea for those watching what they eat during this traditional time.

I have given several soup recipes in various blogs that were not about soup and, from time to time, will in others. 

Guten Appetit!


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