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Hearty Weekend Soup

June 3, 2003

Whenever an ex-pat Kiwi is asked if they would like a food parcel from home, one of those items that invariably ends up on the list is Vegemite. This is a much beloved sandwich spread. It's a yeast extract and is a very dark brown substance.

It has a savoury salty flavor and with Vegemite it's certainly a case of more is not better. It should be spread fairly thinly. To my way of thinking, Vegemite is at its basic best lightly applied to a doorstep of fresh white crispy crust bread slathered with New Zealand butter.

Alas, that old childhood favourite combination has been put on the list of very occasional treats thanks to the cholesterol police. These days it's more a case of a thin scrape of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated spread under the Vegemite but, like a true Kiwi, I couldn't live without Vegemite.

There are, of course the Marmite v Vegemite schools. One of our sons made a switch while in a student flat and is now a committed member of the Marmite fellowship.

I like Vegemite on my morning toast. I have never really been a jam or honey person though a bitter marmalade is OK.

When The Spouse and I were touring the UK about four years ago, I started suffering from Vegemite withdrawal and B&B after B&B served up little individual packs of jam. No matter whether the colour was pink, orange, red or purple or the label said strawberry, apricot, marmalade, raspberry or grape, it always tasted the same.

One day, in the Lake District, Marmite appeared in the selection. I was almost tempted to quietly sweep the whole supply into my handbag. Fortunately I didn't. English Marmite tastes nothing like Kiwi Marmite, let alone Vegemite and my brief exhilaration was soon dampened once I popped some in my salivating mouth.

Our cat also has a Vegemite fetish and though his failing kidneys mean he's on a rather strict diet, he always joins The Spouse at the breakfast bar in the morning, tapping him on the hand (above) for a wee morsel of toast and Vegemite.

He also likes to take up his station for weekend brunch. Lately I have been making a rather hearty soup and the aroma of that, too, lures him up onto one of the high stools to check things out.

A decent-sized pot of soup should last for a couple of meals over the weekend. Pop it in the refrigerator between times, particularly if it has any meat in it.

My current favourite soup has no meat, but it does have lentils to give it a bit of substance. I like brown lentils for this one - the even-sized small brown lentils with their skins still on.

These lentils don't require soaking prior to use. However, they should be sorted through and any little bad bits removed. Give them a good rinse and they are ready to use.

Hearty Weekend Soup

3/4 cup brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 leek (or two brown onions)
1 large carrot
1 medium parsnip
1 chunk pumpkin
1 kumera (sweet potato or yam)
2 medium potatoes, scrubbed
1 small broccoli floret (including stalk) chopped
water or beef stock (made with stock powder is fine)
chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, marjoram for example)

Remove the green ends from the leeks and rinse out any grit. Chop the leeks (or onions). Peel and dice the carrot, parsnip, pumpkin and kumera. Dice the potatoes. Place all in a heavy casserole with the lentils and herbs. Pour in ample water or stock to within about 3cm of the top of the pan. Cover and bring to the boil then turn back the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes. Check the seasoning, adding salt if necessary.

This makes a hearty, medium thick soup that is great with hot Turkish bread (crisped in the oven for about 10 minutes at 200C) sliced.

 

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