My day dawned with a series of irksome sneezes on most of the winter mornings. I somehow dreaded the chill of winter (lasts till February :() more than the heat of summer. The temperature was around 10°C during day time and even dropped below 6°C sometimes at night. Winter played spoilsport by restricting my simple pleasurable pursuits. Worse still, it imposed a few hateful rituals in my routine. I despised winter the most for:
- not being able to go out for a walk;
- not getting the pleasure of watching the outside world through a wide open window, without fear of catching cold;
- seeing my dear indoor plants wilt away, partly because of the chillness and partly because of the heating system we used at home;
- spending most of the time applying a moisturizer or cream to my hands and feet, to keep them supple, lest they resemble those of an aged person and
- carrying around the weight of a bundle of winter wear in which I was wrapped, on the very few instances I dared to go out.
Even as these petty worries thronged my mind, I realized that there was something that could lift my spirits, at least temporarily. It was a bowl of hot spinach soup in which I could drown all my sorrows (Spinach is Pasalai keerai in Tamil, Paalakoora in Telugu and Palak in Hindi). That moment, I appreciated myself for having googled ‘spinach soup recipes’, a few months back. I envisaged the first recipe I hit upon transforming into a delicious dish on my dining table. I adapted the idea, but made modifications (like butter, double cream, lemon zest, nutmeg) to suit my needs.
Here is spinach soup, my style:
- Spinach leaves-3 small bundles
- Garlic-1 or 2 cloves
- Onion-1 medium size
- Potato-1 medium size
- Milk-500 ml
- Vegetable stock-500 ml
- Olive oil-1 tbsp
- Pepper and Salt – to taste
- Prepare broth from left over vegetables in the kitchen. Just throw all vegetable scraps, trimmings and a few spices into a large pot of water. Bring it to a boil and then simmer for about 45 min to allow the flavours to infuse. Filter the liquid and use it. This broth can also be frozen in ice trays and used when required. Here is however a guide to the basic techniques. This method is advantageous over the use of ready-made stock pellets as we can restrict the amount of salt, choose the type of fat, limit or exempt it and avoid preservatives.
- Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottom vessel like Dutch oven.
- Sauté crushed garlic cloves and chopped onion in the oil.
- Follow it with the addition of skin peeled,thinly cut potato pieces; sauté for a few minutes and cook it with the vessel covered for about 5-10 minutes.
- Pour the vegetable stock and milk into the oven. Bring to boil and then simmer.
- Add cleaned and coarsely cut spinach leaves into the mix; use only 2 bundles, keep aside the rest for later steps.
- Cook the concoction till the spinach leaves look shriveled. If you wish your soup to look that beautiful green, avoid cooking with the lid on after adding spinach leaves. The acids that evaporate from the greens may condense on the lid and fall back into the soup, marring its appearance.
- Allow the concoction to cool for a few minutes. Beat it in a blender, all at once or in batches according to the capacity of the blender. But remember to add the fresh spinach leaves you have saved to each batch before blending. This enhances the greenness of the soup and makes it more appealing.
- Reheat the soup. Add freshly crushed pepper and salt according to taste.
- Serve hot.