There is nothing more warming than a bowl of soup on a cold winter day, unless it’s the Soup Sisters in action.
Started in Calgary by Sharon Hapton in 2009, Soup Sisters is an organization that, along with Broth Brothers, provides comforting bowls of homemade soup to women’s shelters and youth groups across Canada.
“A lot of the time the women that come through our doors are under tremendous stress,” says Colleen Kelly of Women’s Community House, as the Soup Sisters in London come together one chilly October night. “Sometimes they can barely even eat, and that’s where the bowls of soup make a huge difference. It may seem to a lot of people it’s a small thing, but really it’s not. A comforting bowl of soup, something easy to digest but still with the nutritional value that they need, gives women in crisis that little bit of energy to make some of the difficult decisions facing them.”
And so once a month a team of 15 to 25 women come together in the London Training Centre’s spacious, professional kitchen to stir up some comfort for those in need, and to have some fun while doing it. The evening ends with a simple sit-down dinner of soup, bread and wine.
Suki Kaur-Cosier of Cooking Matters in Covent Garden Market leads the group in making three soups, one vegetarian, one with meat and one dairy-free. Suki is the perfect chef facilitator for these events; she’s a fantastic chef, an inspiring teacher, and she started a women’s shelter back in her native Britain before moving to Canada. Her bright personality and positive can-do attitude contribute to a wonderful event.
The Soup Sisters Cookbook is a collection of the best tried-and-true recipes the Soup Sisters have to offer. Canadian culinary greats such as Bonnie Stern, Elizabeth Baird, Lucy Waverman and Christine Cushing all have recipes in the book, along with a bevy of Soup Sisters from across the country.
Word of the Soup Sisters great work has also spread south of the 49th parallel. Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks.com contributed the recipe for Winter Vegetable and Tofu Korma. Laden with protein, this delectably spiced soup has just the right amount of heat to warm a cold winter’s night. Let guests dollop in their own yogurt cream topping to taste, rather than adding it to the soup before serving — preferably with naan bread.
Anna Olson’s recipe for Hungarian Beef Goulash with bacon and authentic csipetke (chip-ET-keh), little flour dumplings, is hearty and comforting, and smells fantastic wafting through the kitchen as it simmers. If making csipetke seems daunting, egg noodles will do in a pinch.
The collection of recipes is simple but varied, reflecting the myriad of Canadian tastes. The book has a section containing Essential Equipment and Soup-Making Techniques, so you won’t need Suki and her professional kitchen to help you replicate these delicious recipes. The full-page photos are so gorgeous you can practically smell the aroma coming right off the page.
Whether to family and friends or those in need, serve up a bowl of comfort from the Soup Sisters.
Jennifer Gagel works as a research assistant at London Public Library, and as a business analyst for Cunningham MacGregor & Associates. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recipes courtesy of The Soup Sisters Cookbook: 100 Simple Recipes to Warm Hearts…One Bowl at a Time,
edited by Sharon Hapton, with Pierre A. Lamielle (Random House, 2012 $22.95)
Hungarian Beef Goulash
Makes about 4 servings
1 ½ lb (750 g) boneless blade roast, cut into ½-inch (1 cm) pieces
2 onions, diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 tbsp (30 mL) sweet Hungarian paprika
2 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
2 tsp (10 mL) finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp (5 mL) caraway seeds (optional)
2 bay leaves
4 cups (1 L) beef stock (use low-sodium if store-bought)
1 can (28 oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Csipetke (see below)
Sour cream for garnish
1 Heat a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. Pour off all but 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the bacon fat from the pot.
2 Increase the heat to high. Brown the beef, in batches. Transfer the browned beef to a bowl.
3 Sauté the onions, carrot, parsnip and celery in the same pot over medium heat until the onions are softened.
4 Stir in the paprika, garlic, thyme, caraway seeds (if using) and bay leaves. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
5 Return the beef to the pot, along with the stock and tomatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low.
6 Simmer, covered, until the beef is tender, about 90 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7 Prepare the csipetke (see below) and add to the goulash.
8 Serve the goulash in wide bowls topped with dollops of sour cream and a scattering of crispy bacon.
Csipetke are Hungarian pinched noodles that are perfect with the goulash.
1 Whisk 1 egg lightly, then stir in ½ cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour and a pinch of salt until well-combined. The dough should be dense but a little stretchy and you should be able to pick it up and handle it with your hands. If it’s too dense, add a little water.
2 Using floured hands, pinch off little pea-size pieces of the dough and drop into the simmering goulash. Simmer for 5 minutes before serving.
Winter Vegetable and Tofu Korma
Makes about 4 servings
1 ½ tsp (7 mL) turmeric
1 ½ tsp (7 mL) red chili flakes
1 ½ tsp (7 mL) ground cumin
¼ tsp (1 mL) ground cardamom
¼ tsp (1 mL) ground cinnamon
2 onions, diced
2 tbsp (30 mL) ghee or clarified butter
1 tbsp (15 mL) grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 ½ lb (750 g) waxy potatoes, peeled and diced
12 oz (375 g) cauliflower, cut into tiny florets
2/3 cup (160 mL) toasted sliced almonds, divided
¾ tsp (4 mL) salt
½ cup (125 mL) Greek yogurt
½ cup (125 mL) whipping cream (35% MF)
12 oz (375 g) firm tofu, diced or cut into matchsticks
1 small bunch cilantro,
1 Combine the coriander, turmeric, red chili flakes, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
2 In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the onions in the ghee, until the onions are softened.
3 Stir in the ginger, then the garlic. Stir in the spice mixture and cook until the spices are very fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
4 Stir in the potatoes, cauliflower, half of the almonds, and the salt.
5 Add 3 cups (750 mL) water and stir gently. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are almost cooked, 15 minutes.
6 Stir in the tofu. Simmer until the potatoes are tender and the tofu is heated through, about 5 minutes.
7 Meanwhile, stir together the yogurt, cream, and a pinch of salt in a bow
8 Reduce the heat to low and add the yogurt mixture all at once and bring the pot back just to the brink of a simmer. (Or serve the yogurt on the side, so people can make their bowl as rich as they like.) Add salt to the soup to taste.
9 Ladle up generous servings topped with cilantro and almonds.
ED note: Grapeseed oil works well in place of the ghee.