BOXING DAY SOUP
I love chatting to folk old and young about the nostalgia of the pot that bubbles away at the back of the stove with enticing aromas, ever-changing as the alchemy of cooking is underway, turning leftovers and scraps into the most grounding and nourishing of dishes. That “stock pot” is the ultimate in eco, anti-food waste, economical and highly digestible foods.
I’m sure many of you will have heard me wax lyrical about the qualities of bone broth, not least of which from a soothing, easy-to-digest plus waste-not-want-not point of view. So if you did do a classic turkey Christmas roast or any other meat roast then be sure to make good use of everything and turn the bones/carcass into a nourishing broth with some water and a bit of time for it to do its thing — the magic of slow cooking in action.
Leftover soups have been a tradition in my family, and often the final dish is better than the original dish or dishes from which it came. On Sundays, in front of the Eastender Omnibus, my mum would serve a leftover soup which cleared out the fridge. She used a base of tomatoes, plenty of garlic and black pepper, and in went the leftovers and any veggies that needed eating. A good simmer was all it needed for the flavours to marry, then some rounds of garlic butter toast to serve. We loved it. Whilst everyone else was tucking into a fresh roast to start the week, our Sunday lunches hailed the end of a busy week.
While I make leftover and fridge-clear out soups a-plenty all year round, the one I absolutely look forward to only comes around once a year (though I make sure I claim enough to last me two days): it’s Ro (my other half’s mum’s) Boxing Day Soup. She’s an amazing cook, but there is just something about this particular soup that absolutely does it for me. A blended soup that tastes like all the comforts of Christmas, served piping hot with a touch of chopped curly parsley in total retro style, the icing on the cake to the medley of umami flavours beneath with hints of sweetness from roasted veggies, chestnut stuffing and cranberry sauce (yes everything goes in!). As I slowly sip-chew-savour my way through it I feel instantly grounded. Unlike a Christmas dinner, you don’t fall into the trap of overeating, instead you just feel totally enveloped in hydrating and nourishing goodness. I could go on, but I’ll leave you alone after one more tale — I once took a hot flask of Ro’s Boxing Day soup to watch the newly released Star Wars movie, and yes, during the interval I cracked open that soup (I could barely wait) and enjoyed it, spoon after spoon straight from the flask while everyone filled up on popcorn. Ahh, bliss…
From an Ayurvedic point of view, leftover food holds far less Prana (life force, also known as Chi) than freshly harvested, freshly cooked food. This makes sense when you think about the alternative: food that’s been mass produced, harvested before it’s fully ripe, held in warehouses, shipped across the country, stored again, displayed in supermarkets, ferried to your home, sat around in the fridge/freezer, got cooked, hung about on the table, got shoved back in the fridge again and then reheated — jeez. That’s enough to take the zest of life out of anything. So when we want to benefit from the nutrients that exists from this less-than-fresh food we can make sure that an easy digestive process gets the maximum without being a burden. Luckily, soup is already easier on the digestive system, plus foods that might be a little incompatible for our digestion actually work better together when cooked in a soup, getting to know each other and becoming one food. Adding ginger and black pepper to the soup gives it an extra kick — as a digestive aid as well as in taste (you might well feel your tastebuds watering already at the thought of it, which is all part of digestion by the way). That’s why I’ll be modifying the soup recipe — if there actually is one — with this addition.
So now for the recipe of sorts — since we’re not starting from scratch it’s more an art than a formula but if it was a formula it would look something like this:
If you’ve had a meat roast, strip off any remaining meat and save for curries, stews, stir-fries and/or sandwiches.
Pop the bones and any dripping etc. into a slow cooker with any veg scraps and a bay leaf if you like and cook on medium/low over night or at least 8 hours, in a pressure cooker for a few hours or cook long and slow in the oven or on the hob to get a nutritious bone broth.
Start the soup in a big pot, first sautéeing a couple inches or so of ginger, thinly sliced, in your favourite fat or cooking oil (I use ghee). Then add all the leftovers, top with the bone broth, add a good grind of black pepper and simmer for an hour or so, lid on.
NB. If you haven’t had a meat roast, you can use a little vegetable stock, bouillon or miso paste to give it some umami depth (just don’t add too much since the other ingredients may already be salty!) but since there is usually so much flavour already, water will do. You can also add favourite spices if you want to change it up a bit but I find there are enough Christmas flavours going on — and I love the taste of Christmas!
The veg you add can be roughly chopped if you want it chunky, minestrone-style, or blend it smooth-ish (keep some of the lovely texture in there), just like Nick’s mum makes it, adding more water if needed to create the consistency you like. At this point I like to taste and season with salt since the soup is made from already seasoned dishes, so it’s only at this point you have a better understanding of the final dish, add a bit more ginger (grate it in) and pepper if you like.
To serve, check if it needs a squeeze of lemon or lime to add some acidity. Garnish with curly or chopped parsley to keep its retro feel, a swirl of cream for traditionalists or cream alternative. If you’ve got any ginger and lemon cashew cream left from my mince pie recipe just thin with a little with water and use that!