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Like umbrellas, wellington boots, jumping in puddles, and warm breath steaming up the cold car windows, soup is one of the best things about rainy weather. Nothing beats sitting down to a big bowl of nourishing soup, cupping it between your palms so it warms up your cold hands, and slowly slurping as it heats you from the inside out. Even though it inevitably makes my nose run, I do love me a good bowl of soup in winter. Actually, I’m a soup fan all year round. Gazpacho, cold carrot soup, yoghurt soup and chilled beet soup in summer, and just about anything hot and delicious in winter. My dad makes a mean vegetable soup (he swears by cumin), my mother-in-law makes a thick chicken soup full of surprises, and my aunt makes an amazingly rich tomato and beef soup. I’d say we’re a family of soup-lovers (but then again, who doesn’t like soup?)

I like to make big vats of soup, freeze a few portions, and leave a pot in the fridge to eat over the week. If you’re trying to watch your weight, it’s a great idea to fill up with a bowl of fat-free vegetable soup at the beginning of a meal. I’m always tempted by exotic soup concoctions involving ginger, lemongrass, or coconut milk, but somehow these recipes never actually get made in our house. We always fall back on soups which tick the usual boxes: quick-to-make, healthy (not cream-based), and delicious (obviously). Classic winter soups in the Cohen family household include our version of Minestrone (recipe below), mushroom and barley, tomato, chicken (made with turkey necks) and cabbage.

Next suitably rainy day, find a good, round flat stone, and try making stone soup with your children. Tell them the old fable (which has several different versions) and then make the soup together, you could even act out the parts. The story goes something like this… An old man, a stranger, reached a village one afternoon. The man was tired and hungry and hadn’t eaten a proper meal for days. There was a famine in Europe at the time, and people hoarded their food closely. He knocked on a few doors but no one had any food to share with him and they turned him away. The old man decided to make stone soup. He asked for a big, iron pot, filled it with water and lit a fire underneath. In it he placed a large, round, flat stone. The villagers began to watch, fascinated. "Any soup needs salt and pepper," the old man said, so children ran to fetch salt and pepper. "Stones make good soup, but carrots would make it so much better," the old man added. One woman said, "Why, I think I have a carrot or two!" She ran to get the carrots. And so it continues… the old man suggests beef, barley, potatoes, and lo and behold… the villagers find some scraps to add to the stone soup. Finally, the soup is ready - it is a delicious soup, and the old man shares it with all the villagers. A little corny, but kids love making stone soup, and there is a good lesson to be learned…

For those days when stone soup isn’t hearty enough, here is our version of Minestrone soup, an incredibly thick, rich tomato-based soup with chickpeas. We eat it without pasta but you could always add some pasta if you wanted to make the soup into more of a meal.

Minestrone Soup (adapted from recipe by Mollie Katzen)

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cups chopped onion

5 medium cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 to 2 tsp salt

1 stalk celery, minced

1 medium carrot, diced

1 small zucchini, diced

1 tsp oregano

fresh black pepper to taste

1 tsp basil

1 medium bell pepper, diced

3 to 4 cups (or more) water

1 14 1/2-oz can tomato puree (approx. 2 cups)

1 large can chopped tomatoes

1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked pea beans, chick peas, or kidney beans

Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven.  Add onion, garlic, and 1 1/2 tsp salt.  Sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes, then add celery, carrot, oregano, black pepper, and basil.  Cover and cook over very low heat about 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add bell pepper, zucchini, water, and tomato puree.  Cover and simmer about 15 minutes.  Add beans and simmer another 5 minutes.

3. Bring the soup to a gentle boil.  Cook for another 20-30 minutes (or longer). Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.

Jo Cohen is a full-time working mum learning to juggle life, love and good food while avoiding major disasters. She moved to Israel six years ago from London, and now lives in Modi'in with her husband and son. Jo loves traveling, cooking, and photography – and writes a blog Eat Love Jump (eatlovejump.wordpress.com), where you can find more great recipes and general musings on life.

Photograph by Con Poulos




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