Siberia and Soup

We are not experiencing a “froid de canard,” or duck cold here in France (“froid de canard” is used to describe extremely cold temperatures). We are experiencing, instead, the icy depths of Siberia.  At least that is what the weather people are telling us, as they describe the trajectory of weather, which has swept its way west from the Siberian steppes.

For those of us with desk jobs, this is glorious weather.  Outside, it’s bright and cheerful; inside it’s warm and cozy (if you’re not standing too near a window, at least in my ancient house).  Thoughts lean to hearty soups, crusty home-made pizza oozing with cheese and summer’s tomato sauce, hot chocolate of an early morning.  Clothes are hung on the radiators to warm before putting on, and the fire in the woodstove burns constantly.

There are surprisingly few complaints.  Last week, when we thought summer was around the corner, people were moaning. No one wants their iris blooming in January, and no one knows how to dress when it’s warm in winter. After all, this is the black and navy blue season; you cannot wear those colors when outside the weather is telling you its more spring than winter.  Imagine the confusion.

Now things are clear.  It’s winter. Much may be going to hell in a hand basket, but at least the season has it right!

Here’s a recipe for one of my favorite soups.   It’s the French antidote to all of winters’ ills, including the cold.


Remember, you may vary the vegetables. Do note that if you add turnips, or any brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) the soup won’t be good the day after it is made.

1 large onion, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, peeled, green germ removed

5 medium leeks, white part and 1-inch of the green, well rinsed and finely chopped

1 small celery root, trimmed, peeled and finely chopped

1 large or 2 small russet-like potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes

1 parsnip, peeled and cut into small cubes

3 carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes

1 apple, cored, peeled and cut into quarters

20 sprigs fresh thyme

1 fresh (or dried) bay leaf

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley

Coarse sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Place all of the ingredients, except 1 of the garlic cloves and the parsley, into a large stockpot or saucepan.  Cover by 2-inches with water, and add 1 teaspoon salt.  Set over high heat.  When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat so the water is simmering merrily, partially cover and cook until the vegetables are tender.
  2. While the soup is cooking, pluck 1 cup leaves from the parsley.
  3. When the soup is cooked, remove the herbs and puree it.  Taste it for seasoning. If it isn’t as thick as you’d like it, either add another potato, cook for an additional 15 minutes and puree, or bring the soup to a boil and reduce it until it is thick.  Taste it for seasoning.
  4. Just before serving, mince the parsley and the garlic together.
  5. To serve, ladle the soup into soup bowls.  Drizzle each bowl with olive oil, then sprinkle generously with the garlic and parsley mixture.

Serves 6 to 8


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