Marge Kennedy expressed it very very well when she said, “Soup is a lot like a family. Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavour.”
You could’ve probably guessed that I was missing my family a lot that afternoon when I whipped up this soup dish for myself. It was a Wednesday, I was down with a terrible bout of cold and we didn’t get much sun throughout the day. What we did get here in Munich, though, was a clear and an exceptionally excellent view of the Alps, which meant that rain was at our doorsteps. What’s the link? Well, Dad told me that it had to do with the lower air pressure before the onset of wet weather and this brought about thinner air which allowed for greater clarity of far, far away things.
The weather conditions that day brought back memories of a lovely book I once came across in an elegant, slightly out-of-the-road bookstore in Singapore. It’s name escapes me but I do remember how beautifully it was put together. Truly a hidden germ. This was a small passage I came across that day in the book shop and fortunately yet again on Google Books:
One for Sorrow: A Book of Old-Fashioned Lore
By Chloe Rhodes
If birds fly low, then rain we shall know
This saying is often preceded by another rhyming couplet: ‘Birds fly high, clear blue sky’, and was used as a way of predicting the onset of wet weather by farmers who depended on rain at the right times of year to hydrate their crops and yield them a good harvest.
Birds were respected for their close attunement with the climate and their behaviour was closely observed for hints of what kind of weather lay ahead. Much of their flying behaviour is determined by air pressure, and weather lore that is based on changes in air pressure has scientific reasons behind it and is genuinely useful in making short-term weather forecasts.
Birds really do fly lower in the sky before rain because wet weather is associated with low pressure, which makes the air thinner and more difficult for birds to fly in. The flight patterns of insects are affected in the same way and it may be that birds are brought closer yet to the ground by the descent of their prey.
Another piece of folklore says it rooks’ nests are built high in treetops it will be a fine summer; while if they’re closer to the ground the summer will be wet and could, though this is more likely to be to do with the amount of wind at the time of nest-building than
the tell-tale drop in pressure that signals storms.
Well, in any case, the weather was a little dismal to say the least and my heart was craving the warm hugs and cheeky kisses I’d usually get from my family when we would huddle a little closer together on colder days. There must have been some sort of proportionality between the lowering of outside temperatures and the lowering of my heart’s happy-o-meter.
Memories of every one of them – Dad, Mum and my little sister – filled my headspace and I could only think of what I would cook if they were here with me.
Dad loves tomatoes.
Mum loves sweet potatoes.
Little sister loves corn.
And I? I loved them all – Dad, Mum, my sister, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and corn.
So I cranked up the volume of my Spotify playlist – Birdy’s “Keeping Your Head Up” and Alan Walker’s “Faded” – and got about making something I knew would remind me of my family with every bite, or rather, slurp…
I busied myself first with making something that resembled a ‘naan’ bread out of spelt and corn flour; ½ cup spelt flour + ½ cup corn flour + a generous dash of Italian spices + ½ cup water. I kneaded it well and subsequently spread it out (about 0.5cm thick) over a baking paper-lined circular baking tray. I let it rest while preparing the sweet potato that would join it in the oven…
Sweet Potato Prep:
I scrubbed the potato and stabbed it a couple of times before popping both the soon-to-be-‘naan’ bread and sweet potato into the oven, which was already heated up to 200°C.
After 10-15 minutes, i.e. when the edges of the ‘naan’ started to brown ever so slightly, I took the ‘naan’ out while leaving the sweet potato in the oven. I let the ‘naan’ cool a little before using a knife to cut it up into little pieces – I cut mine into little triangular pieces because triangles are such cheery, happy shapes! 🙂 The little cut up pieces of ‘naan’ were left to cool further because in this way, they’d get a little crunchier!
I had some time before I had to take the sweet potato out of the oven so I got down to making a really fresh and simple tomato-cucumber salad. I chopped up a tomato, about ¼ of a cucumber, mixed it up, sprinkled some black pepper and ended off with a squeeze of lemon. Zingyyyyy!!
After a total of 40-60 minutes in the oven (this depended on how big the sweet potato was), I took the sweet potato out of the oven and sliced it open so I could scoop the flesh out and plonk it right into my food processor (a blender would work fine too). Right after, I whizzed up the sweet potato flesh with a sprinkle of curry powder, about ½ a teaspoon of chopped dill, ½ a teaspoon of thyme too and a generous serving of water water till it reached the consistency I desired – not too runny, but not too thick either.
*Note: In place of water, oat milk/ coconut milk/ any other plant-based milk could be used as well! I tried this out and the soup turned out delightfully creamy! 🙂
After all that jazz was completed, I got about putting the different components of the dish together and added the finishing touches to the soup – a sprinkle of black pepper, buckwheat groats for that extra crunch and parsley everywherreeeeee because I don’t think one could ever go wrong with ‘too much’ parsley! 😉
Ahhh :’) I loved the aesthetically pleasing way my bowl seemed to blend right into the blue batik cloth beneath it… As much as every bite reminded me of my loved ones back in Singapore and warmed my heart, the little bowl-cloth-blending coincidence did bring me joy too. 🙂