My Migrant Soup

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April 23, 2013 by anelim

Everything I cook is for two… pity there’s no second one to share. Living alone in a foreign country can get a bit boring, I admit. Well, at the very least there is no one to scald my [scalding but] tasteless food when it doesn’t turn out good. (this soup turned out rather nice).

<PHOTO OF SOUP>

In case you wonder, this is green soup, that is,soup made of any greens I could lay my hands on. In this case it was a bit of a faux-green soup because there weren’t many greens available in my fridge. So I put asparagus, potato, frozen peppers, copious amounts of fresh coriander to which I am hopelessly addicted, white onion, some parsley, and a small pinch of dried lovage (девесил) (Liebstöckel) – all chopped in very small pieces (<1cm). The soup looks misty white because it is Bulgarian-style.

Actually, I found out that this is Bulgarian-style and not everybody-style only when I moved to the UK in 2006. UK soups are like baby purees served in dainty bowls. They are pretty, usually colourful (containing things like carrot and pumpkin) and weird. Bulgarian soups have lots of bits to chew on, huge amounts of secret herbs, a bit more salt, usually a bit of olive oil (not mine, though) and lots of clear water. This is why most people “build up” the soup by adding a mixture of whisked egg and/or yoghurt. Here’s how: once the soup is cooked and all the ingredients are soft, you whisk half an egg and/or a spoonful of yoghurt (for a soup the size of this one); then add a spoonful of the hot mixture into the “building mixture” (to prevent it from curdling, ewww), and then throw in the warmed up mixture which is by now almost immune to curdling into the soup. Then it is cooked for another minute on very, very quiet fire. Housewives do it because the soup looks somehow more finished, I do it because the egg and/or yoghurt add(s) a trace of protein and substance to the otherwise bulky but lean meal. But “building” is also a favourite trick in restaurants because it allows them to conceal all the unknown materials that went into constructing the soup. This is why I usually avoid ordering soup in Bulgarian restaurants, unless I know the place.

(By the way, “building” isn’t the right culinary term, it’s just my clumsy translation of “застройвам”). Somebody please please correct it. I strongly suspect that, like many things posh in Bulgaria (and beyond), the “built up” soup originates from France, so there might be a French term for this bizarre act of cookery.

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