Gemma Simmonite, co-creator of Gastrono-me in Bury St Edmunds, finds comfort in a simple bowl of soup and urges us to find our own comfort zone in these uncertain times
At times of great uncertainty, I turn to soup. That statement makes it sound like it’s the only time I turn to this comfort food, which is completely untrue. I turn to soup when anyone in the family needs nurturing or comfort, or when I can’t be fagged with cooking (in that there is literally always a frozen soup lurking somewhere in my freezer). And Christmas Eve simply wouldn’t be Christmas without minestrone – served with hunks of crusty bread, and oozy brie – not quite traditional, but a precious tradition to us.
But back to that uncertainty I mentioned. Soup requires time, not just in the cooking process, but in the eating of it. It gives you time to ponder and time to figure things out. There’s something quite meditative in pausing before a bowl of steaming hot soup – waiting for it to cool, you are forced to just sit and savour its aromas. The slow repetitive action of sipping soup from a spoon gives time for even more reflection, so I don’t think it’s just the goodness of the ingredients and spices, I actually think it’s the entire process that’s involved in the creation and imbibing of soup that makes it special.
Uncertainty is not natural for the human condition; fear is often our immediate response when feeling vulnerable. Fear can quickly turn to anger when we feel unsure – something that we’ve witnessed a lot of in the last six months, and when we’re scared we react with irrationality – and if the empty shelves where loo roll once resided were anything to go by, we must’ve been really scared.
With daily news of rising R levels, of curfews, rules of sixes, local lockdowns and marooned uni-students, it’s extremely easy to start panicking again, and to start to feel like things are slipping from our grasp once more. But what we must try not to do is start clutching wildly at things, not act irrationally, because it’s counterproductive and quite frankly, exhausting.
I am not suggesting we should all hover around in a zen like mist – of course we must remain presently cautious, but that is it, that is all that is required, to follow the current guidelines and to get on with living. It is tempting to spend too much time reading every last word on this damned virus, every latest government knee jerk reaction, every heated debate on its handling, but is it really doing you any good? I’ve lost count of every overheard Covid conversation that I’ve tuned into in the supermarket, hairdressers and restaurant. “When will it end?” we wail!
I’m guilty of it, of course I am. Not only from a mother’s point of view, but also as a restaurateur. I’ve laid awake many a night not just worrying about seating plans and curfews, but crowded school corridors and airless jammed school buses. But is this manic worrying really doing me any good? It doesn’t move me forward. The only thing that can is positive action, and by doing what makes me feel comfortable. That comfort zone is up to you, you have control over that, it’s yours. By doing the very most I can towards customer safety, and by making daily judgment calls on my daughter’s schooling is within my grasp and that makes me feel secure. I hope with all my heart that restrictions don’t intensify, but if they do, we must go with the flow. To fight against it is counterproductive.
My suggestion is that you take a moment to watch the autumn miracle that is effortlessly going on around us. Take a deep breath and know that you’re a part of that change, that enriching passing of time. Just a beat taken to acknowledge nature’s last burst of vibrancy will fill you with something great, even greater than the fear a pandemic can cause.
By making an equally vibrant soup, it will make you feel like you’re doing something positive – a process that will have a delicious result.
I chose this soup particularly because of its beautiful colour – it mirrors the fiery oranges of autumn. Turmeric and ginger are the natural medics of the spice cupboard and will effortlessly soothe any panacea that may ail you. Roasting the carrots accentuates their earthy sweetness and cuts down on unnecessary process, making this soup a perfectly easy and delicious supper.
I implore you to spend more time thinking about the things that you can control, and less time worrying about the things you can’t. If I may quote the Dalai Lama: “If there is no solution to the problem, then don’t waste time worrying about it. If there is a solution to the problem, then don’t waste time worrying about it.”
I wish you all a beautiful rest of October. Stay safe, but most importantly stay happy x
NURTURING TURMERIC & GINGER CARROT SOUP
Prep 20 mins
Cook 35 mins
800g carrots, roughly chopped
2 onions, quartered
4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 litre of vegetable bouillon
2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
1½ teaspoons of ginger paste
½ teaspoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh coriander, pumpkin seeds and nigella seeds to garnish
Coconut cream, or double cream
for extra creaminess, and for a finishing swirl
Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
In a large roasting tin, pour in the olive oil and heat briefly for 2-3 minutes. Carefully pour in the prepared carrots, onion and garlic, toss in the olive oil making sure the vegetables are fully coated. Stir in the turmeric, ginger, cumin and ground coriander and give everything a good stir.
Roast in the oven for approximately 15 minutes, keeping a close eye that nothing is catching too fast, a little caramelisation is encouraged though.
Allow the roasted vegetables to cool a little whilst you make up your bouillon.
Pour your roasted vegetables and all their delicious juices into the blender, you may have to do this in two batches depending on your blender size, and top up with some of your bouillon stock – don’t put too much in, just enough to allow the veggies to liquify.
When everything is blitzed pour into a saucepan.
Now comes my favourite part, flavour adjustment. This is the point to tweak your flavours with salt and pepper, and with the bouillon get it to the exact consistency you require – some people prefer a very thick soup, but my preference is somewhere in the middle. If you find you'd like a little extra creaminess at this point you can add a little of your coconut cream or double cream now.
When ready and to your liking, garnish with fresh coriander, a sprinkle of nigella seeds and pumpkin seeds for extra antioxidants, and an extra swirl of creaminess if desired. Serve with a hunk (or two) of rustic bread for extra sustenance.
Let the healing begin!
Gemma is executive chef and co-creator of Gastrono-me, Abbeygate Street, Bury St Edmunds
Call 01284 277980
Read Gemma’s blog at gemwithrelish.com