Day 4 – Mum’s Vegetable Soup
Once upon a time in a far off winter, a young horse-mad girl would get dressed in the cold dark mornings every weekend and wait patiently while her mother poured some steaming soup into a thermos before driving her to a local riding stables.
There, throughout the weekend, the girl would muck-in, helping the stable owners by bringing the horses in from the frost-covered fields, grooming them, saddling them up and mucking out the stables. She had enough money for just one paid hour-long ride for that weekend – her hope was that, if she worked hard enough, she may be able to cadge an extra ride or two if a booking failed to show up, or if the ride consisted of young learners, she could accompany them.
She was just eleven years old in what seemed like a permanently frozen world. The ground was hard and slippery and when the ice thawed the earth turned to mud, knee-deep in places. She would be caked in mud and manure by mid morning. The rides out were her reward, on her favourite of all the horses, a skinny young strawberry roan colt, through narrow country lanes lined with six feet high stone walls, over banks and through farm gates and up onto the cornish moors and then, then she could go as fast as she wanted, over the narrow paths, past the old tin mine stacks, along the tops of tors and spurs and with the sea in the distance. That was the best bit of all.
And then, with the horses safely returned she would untack the colt, rug him up, make a huge steaming bucket of hot bran mash and feed her horse before settling in to her thermos of soup. She would eat in the fuggy warmth of the stables as the winter afternoon grew darker. Everything about this moment was perfect.
Throughout the years that followed, this routine never wavered except for school holidays when she spent every day there if she could. Between the stable owners who gave her lessons and more experienced horsey friends who had their own steeds, she learnt to ride over jumps, higher, faster, and then a friend dared her to go into the local cross-country event and that was it. She was hooked. Eventing became the great sporting passion of her young life.
Until, somewhere around her fourteenth birthday the world tilted and the lure of horses steadily diminished. It was never quite as strong as that of music, or makeup or gossip or the boy she was falling in love with and for the next dozen years the appeal of horseriding was lost to her. Until one day, in another, warmer, world she woke up from a ferocious hangover and in an impulsive attempt to shake it off, went riding again for the first time in over ten years.
Within six weeks, she had bought a horse and was, quite literally, back in the saddle again. And the world tilted back onto its axis, even though in this new world some things could not be repeated. There was no raggetty roan pony to love, but a headstrong appaloosa mare. Within weeks there was a horseriding man to fall in love with so she didn’t have to walk away from horses at all. And in this newly formed perfect world, for what would be many years to come until there were other children to nurture through cold winters, there would be no need for Mum’s soup.
30g butter; 1 tbsp oil; 1 large leek, white part only, roughly chopped; 1 brown onion, diced; 1 clove garlic, roughly sliced; 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1cm thick slices; 1 large stick celery, roughly sliced; 1 large parsnip, peeled and roughly chopped; 1 small swede, peeled and diced into 2cm chunks; 2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and diced into 2cm chunks; 2-3 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped; 1.5 litres water or vegetable stock or chicken stock; sea salt and white pepper to taste
Heat a large stock pot or 6L soup pot over medium heat and add the butter and oil. Add leeks and onions and sauté for four minutes until the onions are soft and starting to colour. Add garlic, carrot and celery and sauté for a further four minutes.
Add remaining vegetables parsley and water or stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes. From time to time, skim the impurities off the surface of the soup.
At this point, you can season the soup to taste and eat it as is in a chunkier version, but for authenticity, Mum’s soup is blended, so fire up the stick blender and blitz it to a thick orangey mess. Season to taste and serve with toast or a scattering of parmesan over the top.
$5.40 for four to six hearty serves