First-Class Soup

Dear Reader,

The picture to the left shows a dictation I recently found in the room of my son, a bright first-grader Mommy is proud of.

The purpose of the dictation is to test the pupils’ knowledge of how to correctly spell similarly sounding pairs of consonants and separate syllables. Texts drafted to serve such very specific purposes rarely make much sense, but – lo and behold, this one actually did!

The text says more or less the following:

“Grandmother Tsenka cooks soup. She cuts a carrot, an onion and a potato. She adds a handful of rice and a little spearmint. She gives her grandson Gogo a bowl of soup. How tasty Granny’s soup is!”

Now. Seeing my son’s handwriting, the way his tiny hand has shaped letters into meaningful words always touches my heart and makes me smile.

This time, however, I also got inspired to actually cook proverbial grandmother Tsenka’s soup, as a joke and also to show my child how words become real – how the written word can actually leave a trace in the course of human history, poetically speaking…

This very easy soup turned out delicious and quick to prepare. I cooked with vegetables only, no egg-and-yoghurt thickening, because it is still Lent, but the soup will be great both ways. It tastes of chicken soup without the chicken.

So, pretty much as the dictation text says:

  • Dice onions, a carrot and half a kilogram of potatoes;
  • I also diced parsley root as it gives soups a great taste;
  • A handful of rice;
  • Have ready salt, red pepper sweet or hot, chubritsa, spearmint (джоджен) and ground black pepper;
  • Have ready hot water, boiled in a kettle or on the stove-top;
  • Fresh parsley to add at the end

Heat (sunflower) oil in the pot where you’ll cook the soup. Fry onions, carrots and parsley root. In a minute or two add a bit of water, so as to boil-fry them and in a short while add a pinch or red pepper, or to taste, but the soup should not become too red and peppery.Add diced potatoes, all the spices and hot water. Eye-ball the amount, it should be about 2 fingers above the potatoes, because later you’ll add the rice, which will absorb water and thicken the soup. It still has to look like a soup then. It is a good idea to learn to add the exact amount of water necessary and later add just a bit, because adding large quantities of water later in the cooking process somehow spoils the taste of the dish.

After adding the potatoes, reduce the fire, cover (not fully), and let simmer for about 10 minutes.

Taste, fix spices/water if necessary and add the rice. Simmer to readiness.

When the soup has cooled down a bit, add the fresh parsley and do not cover because the heat will turn its leaves a muddy dark green colour – totally unappetising.

You may also add more ground black pepper at this point – it will smell divine.

Similarly to all vegan dishes, the soup is also tasty cold. I will never tire to repeat that.

If adding a yoghurt-and-egg thickener, you mix a small amount of yoghurt with an egg in a larger bowl, add a bit of the soup liquid (not very hot!) to the mixture and stir. Then you return this to the soup pot slowly and under constant stirring. This is done after the soup has been completely cooked and has cooled down a bit. The idea is to avoid getting white flakes from the egg white curdling at the hot temperature. They you add the parsley.

If cooking with meat, boil a chicken thigh, cook the soup with the resulting liquid. In the meantime, skin and bone the thigh, cut the meat to tiny pieces. Add together with the rice. You may also thicken with yoghurt and an egg or leave it plain.