Friday, April 15, 2011

Cooking by the Book - Pink Soup

(This is reposted from a 2007 post on my other blog, Zucchinis in Bikinis. We made pink soup again this week and I was all gung ho to write a fresh post about it with new photos and all, but a) my camera ate the photos and b) I am reeeaallly sick and tired. So I hope you enjoy the iteration of 4 years ago instead!)

One of the things that followed from A's persistent ear troubles over the past three weeks was a retreat into home-based, quiet indoor activity. This was necessary to spare her ear from the cold wind, and her from the misey of having to be niiiiice when all she wanted to do was be coddled. We did a lot of puzzles, a lot of reading, and, before E's gastro kicked in on Wednesday night and made food preparation a risky prospect, a lot of cooking and baking. I tend to cook a lot when feeling in need of a boost, and the girls love to cook with me, tasting, talking, stirring, rolling, cutting, icing and measuring (I retain control of the knives and appliances, of course).

One really fun thing we found to do, which brightened up last Monday considerably, was combining two of our favourite things - books and cooking - into one gorgeously messy and ultimately successful experiment. A and E possess a lovely series of picture books by British author-illustrator Helen Cooper, called Pumpkin Soup, A Pipkin of Pepper, and Delicious! These beautifully drawn stories are all about the Cat, the Squirrel and the Duck who share their lives, music, and beloved pumpkin soup in their old white cabin in the woods. Cooper's illustrations bring the gentle stories alive for the kids and they are truly a pleasure to read (fortunately, as we have read them many, many time over).

In the latest book in the series, Delicious!, the story starts with a grand catastrophe - THERE ARE NO RIPE PUMPKINS IN THE GARDEN! Oh the humanity! Pumpkin soup is all they ever cook, all they ever eat or want ... and now they have to find something else. Consulting the recipe book, they make fish soup - but the Duck won't even try it. Mushroom soup - but YUK says the Duck. The Cat and the Squirrel make Pink Soup (beetroot soup) in a valiant effort to get the Duck to eat ... but he tips the pot over, wailing "That's pink!! Pumpkin soup is orange!" Finally the Cat tricks the Duck into eating by making a mixed vegetable soup which turns out a nice rich orangey colour (with carrots, corm, tomatoes and squash).

A expressed interest when we first read the book in all of the soup-making processes and soups except the fish soup (that one extracted a flat "Oh no" from her). So on Monday, as I had some fresh beetroot in the fridge, and we'd finished an hour's reading, including Delicious!, I suggested that we should try to make ... PINK soup.

We had a ball. First, we boiled the beetroots, and the girls ooh-ed and aah-ed over the deep ruby red that the water went at the end. Then, they helped me stir the onions on a slow heat, and add the cubed beetroot to the pot. Then A measured 5 cups of water and added them in, and E added the salt and pepper, and we set the soup to boil while we turned our attention to the lamb stew for dinner and our chocolate cake-for-a-treat.

This is how it looked cooking:

I wasn't convinced that, despite its undeniable prettiness, either of the kids would consent to actually eat it when it was finished. A, my 4-year-old, can be quite conservative about food, and E, at 2 years 4 months, is going through an extreme picky phase (not untypical but still can be trying).
However, it seemed that weeks of reading about the Cat, the Squirrel and the Duck in their old white cabin, and tsking over the pain the Duck puts the other two through in trying to feed him, had an effect. Because when the Pink Soup was brought to the table at lunchtime, both girls took a cautious but immediate sip, their faces brightening as the sweet, rich beetroot and sour cream taste filled their mouths. E didn't finish hers (although she did have fun painting her bread bright pink with it), but A drank every drop, commenting frequently, "It's just delicious, Mummy!"

Mission successful - a Monday diversion, a new vegetable introduced, and a favourite book brought even more to life.

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