Zucchini, Potato and Mushroom Soup
I recently had the pleasure of eating a real home-cooked Chinese meal. My husband and I were invited to have dinner with Robert and Lisa the other night. Lisa is from China. She married Robert just over a year ago and moved to the Czech Republic. Lisa is very charming with a ‘I can do’ attitude. The first day I met her was in June, a friend brought her along to a cycling party I had arranged for my student and friends. We had planned a sixty kilometer trip. I had been training for three months, all the others who attending were cyclist. They all had their fancy new bikes with a slew of gears. Their bikes could run up and down hills with ease. However, the situation for Lisa was a little different. She had been invited to come just the day before. She didn’t own a bike so she borrowed an old bike from her father-in-law. The bike was an old city bike, without gears, made for ladies’ shopping and gentleman’s pub visits. I told Lisa it would be a long day and a long trip over hilly terrain. She assured me she would be OK, so we set off. I don’t know how she managed to do it but she went the whole way. She explained to me that if a Chinese makes a commitment to do something they don’t give up. For me it was a great opportunity to get to know her. The trip took us ten hours to complete, giving us lots of time to talk. Lisa and I are from opposite sides of the Earth. We grew up with different religious, cultural, and political belief, but somehow we are similar. We discovered that we have a lot in common.
While Lisa was cooking she explained that Chinese prepare dishes with vegetables which compliment each other in the garden. In other words, they prepare food by the season. Our meal consisted of peppers, Chinese cabbage, mushrooms, onions, rice, fresh fish, pork, and eggs. The vegetables came from her garden, the eggs from her hens and the fish was caught by her father-in-law that morning. We had a wonderful time cooking and eating together. The food was tantalizing, savory and delicious. I hope she will share some recipes with me in the future.
I am also a proponent of eating by the season. Yesterday, I had brought in zucchini and potatoes from my garden. The day before I had collected mushrooms from a nearby forest. It was a rainy and cool day so I decided to make soup.
Zucchini, Potato and Mushroom Soup
This is one of my favorite summer soups. It is good served hot or cold. The vegetables perfectly compliment each other, all being of the same season. The zucchini and carrot add a touch of color and the celery adds a bit of flavor. The potatoes thicken the soup. The mushrooms add a touch of woods. The ham adds a bit of smoke. The piquant herbs and spices add underlying flavor and aroma to a group of vegetables which might otherwise be bland. This savory soup is sure to be a surprisingly pleasant taste experience.
2 bay leaves
4 clove buds
8 allspice berries
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
6 fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 cup chopped smoked ham
2 medium zucchini, diced
5 potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 to 2 cups sliced wild mushrooms
1 carrot grated
3 cups of chicken stock
3 cups milk
Salt and pepper
Tie the first five ingredients in a piece of cheese cloth. Melt butter in a large soup kettle. Add onions, cook until golden. Add celery and garlic and ham, saute for another five minutes. Add the chicken stock, remaining vegetables and bag of herbs and spices. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 1 hours. Cook gently stirring occasionally. Remove bag of herbs and spices, add milk and adjust salt. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.