Monday, July 25, 2011

Snow day

This morning I awoke to find it had been snowing overnight. Since snow seldom stays around long in Christchurch (when it falls at all) I got ready for work as usual, climbed in the car and inched my way through the snowy, slippery streets to work.

The snow didn't melt away as I'd expected. Instead, it continued to fall thick and fast. Few people had made it to work and since we weren't going to be able to do much anyway, I ended up heading home again.

For anyone reading this who isn't familiar with the weather in New Zealand, and particularly Christchurch, the thing you need to understand is that we're not well-equipped to deal with snow. What in many countries would be considered a light dusting of snow can bring the whole city to a standstill. 

In weather like this, a bowl of soup seems like an ideal meal. Good thing I'd made some meat stock (p85) over the weekend, then! 

Stock takes time to make, but very little effort. I got some beef bones from a local butcher, trimmed off any obvious fat, and put them into a stock pot with two litres of water. When the water started boiling, there was a dirty-looking scum on the surface, so I followed the recipe, which stated that if this was the case, I should drain the water, rinse the bones and start again with fresh water.

When I had the fresh lot of water boiling, I added a carrot and a couple of celery sticks, along with some peppercorns and a bouquet garni made of parsley and a bay leaf. It was supposed to have a sprig of thyme in it too, but I couldn't get any. Instead I sprinkled a little dried thyme in the water and hoped for the best.

That's pretty much the sum total of effort involved in preparing the stock. After this, you just let it simmer for six hours, then strain it through a sieve and leave it cool before refrigerating.

I got my big bowl of stock out today to make some french onion soup (p86). I already had some thinly sliced onions cooking in butter over a low heat, so while that was happening, I skimmed the layer of fat off the top of my stock. With the fat gone, the stock had a weird jellyish consistency, but it melted down into a liquid almost immediately when I added it to the pan with the onions.

The soup had to simmer for 15 minutes, so in the meantime, I sorted out the cheese on toast which apparently goes with french onion soup. It probably would have looked prettier if I'd used dainty little slices of french bread, but I didn't have any (and wasn't going out in the snow to get some!) and anyway, the recipe seemed to indicate normal toast bread. Probably grainy bread isn't exactly traditional, but never mind, it's all I had.

When the 15 minutes was up. I removed the pan from the heat and added a little sherry and some seasoning, then served myself a bowl of soup topped with the cheesy toast.

The french onion soup had a far more mellow flavour than I expected from all those onions, and while I found the soggy, cheesy bread an odd addition, it tasted ok. I think my beef stock was a little lacking in flavour, and I had to add quite a lot of salt to prevent the soup from being bland. Still, it was a warming, pleasant meal - just the thing on a snowy day!


  1. Home made stock...what can I say. I have never had much success with it and like you find its usually lacking in flavour.Probably accounts for why shop bought stock in cartons is so popular these days. Still you get the goodness from all the goodies you put in and you know what is in your stock which is a bonus I guess.My mum always used soup bones or chicken bits but also added pkts of maggi soup mix to boost the flavour and her soups were great.c

  2. Can't tell you how strange it is to read about your snow day in JULY!!! haha...I guess it is just as strange for you to hear about ours in January ;) Stay warm!


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