Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Feel free to copy the following to your blog/facebook/website and spread the word. Let poetry bless the blogosphere once again!
WHAT: A Bloggers (Silent) Poetry Reading
WHEN: Anytime between now and Brigid's Feast Day, February 1, 2011
WHERE: Your blog
WHY: To celebrate the Feast of Brigid
HOW: Select a poem you like - by a favorite poet or one of your own - to post February 1st.
RSVP: If you plan to publish, there is now a Facebook Community page for the event. If you post a poem on your blog, please share the link on the community page so we can all go there and read it. If you don’t have a blog or website of your own, go ahead and post your poem in its entirety to the community page.
Feel free to spread this invitation across the blogosphere!
Thanks to Reya, Deborah and Anne for their vision and hard work in initiating and maintaining this tradition.
Sunday, 23 January 2011
Following my last post, my friend Harlequin asked if I would be writing about the magical uses of soup. I hadn't planned to, but his question got me thinking...
The first thought that sprang to mind was the choice of ingredients. You could choose the ingredients of your soup according to the energies you wish to induce in yourself and your fellow diners. You could for example choose earthy, grounding ingredients like root vegetables and tubers - carrots, turnips, swede, parsnips, potatoes, beetroot or Jerusalem artichokes (though you may wish to take Jafion's advice from the comments on my last post if you choose these!) - to make a 'grounding' soup. This could be a useful dish following a very trance-y ritual or demanding pathworking or spellworking. On the other hand, a light, spicy soup featuring ginger, chili, paprika etc could be used to increase energy levels. Or how about a healing soup, rich in fresh green veggies, garlic and herbs?
Your choice of herbs could be made according to their magical properties. For example thyme is ruled by Venus, so you may wish to include it as an ingredient for the soup you'll eat with your lover, or as part of your Valentine's Day meal.
You could also tailor ingredients according to what is being celebrated at the time of year. I think a creamy, pale coloured soup like curried parsnip or leek and potato would be ideal for Imbolc, and your Lammas soup could contain seasonal ingredients like tomatoes, along with barley and a sprinkling of poppy seeds to celebrate the grain harvest. It goes without saying that the obvious dish for Samhain is pumpkin soup!
There is also the intent that goes into creating the soup. Chop and prepare the ingredients mindfully, giving thanks for the abundance that feeds you. Meditate on that which you wish to increase or bring into your life whilst stirring the pot deosil (clockwise, the direction of the sun in the sky - in the Northern Hemisphere anyway - the direction of growth), or stir widdershins (anticlockwise) whilst meditating on that which you wish to banish (say, illness - or excess weight!). Say a few words of thanks - silent or aloud - before eating.
In my family, we all used to take turns stirring our wishes into the Christmas Pudding during its preparation. This idea works with many dishes, including soup! So if the soup is to be made for a group gathering or celebration, each person could take a turn stirring the pot and adding a few words of blessing for the group over it. That would be a potent brew!
For me, one of the 'magical' aspects of cooking is the way ingredients come together synergistically, creating something which is more than the sum of its parts. I kind of touched on that idea in this post. Soup is an especially good metaphor for this kind of magic given the diversity of ingredients and the way they blend together (particularly in a cream soup).
Finally, when you have finished your magical meal, what about a spot of divination? It was Reya who first taught me soup bowl divination - thank you Reya! After your meal, gaze into your soup bowl. Rather like reading the tea leaves, you should find that the patterns left behind by the interaction of spoon and soup dregs (with a little squinting) resolve themselves into symbols that can be interpreted as you see fit. Like most forms of divination, it's often easier to read for another than for yourself. And of course, it goes without saying that deliberate manipulation of soup dregs is cheating!
Happy soup making!
Saturday, 15 January 2011
My reluctance to throw away anything potentially useful extends to leftover food. Yesterday's leftover mashed potato can become the topping for today's shepherd's pie, or the basis for bubble and squeak. Leftover baked beans get chucked into a chilli. Bruised or over-ripe bananas make a great cake. When the local council finally got around to providing us with a 'food waste' bin to put leftover food in for recycling, I was at a bit of a loss. I wanted to support the recycling initiative, but the fact is, I don't have any food waste. Between re-using leftovers myself, the compost heap, the cats, the chickens and the bird table, there is nothing left for the council to recycle. At the moment, the bin sits forlornly outside the back door with a pot of herbs perched on it. I expect sooner or later I'll find a use for it...
In the meantime, one of my favourite uses for food leftovers is soup. Ah, soup! Thrifty, warming, soothing, comforting! The perfect cold weather food. Here is my basic ThriftWitch soup recipe which can be adapted to which ever leftovers you have to hand.
Fry up some chopped onions and garlic in a little olive oil and butter until they are soft. For a spicy soup (optional), throw in your spices of choice (e.g. cumin [ground or seeds], curry powder, chilli, paprika, turmeric - whatever you like the taste of) and fry briefly. Put in your leftover veggies and/or meat, stir well and cover in stock (I use vegetable stock as IB is vegetarian and I'm not a big fan of meat in soups, but your choice of stock is up to you). You can use stock cubes for convenience, or make your own stock*. You can add additional veggies at this stage - carrots, celery, leeks, turnips etc are good additions. Add extra potatoes if you like a thick, hearty soup. Or lentils, or barley, or any other pulses you may have to hand. Soup is a great way to use up pumpkin-inners after your carving efforts at Samhain (I like to make a spicy pumpkin and tomato soup with warming spices like cumin, chilli and ginger as I find pumpkin a bit bland)! You can experiment at this stage with herbs too**. Bring to the boil and then simmer until all is tender and you're hungry. Taste and adjust seasoning - salt, pepper, spices. At this stage I often blend the soup in the food processor, as I prefer a smooth, creamy textured soup. As a final touch, you can swirl in some cream or a dollop of yoghurt. And voila. It really is that easy. And cheap. And it will taste way better than any soup out of a tin.
* Basic vegetable stock recipe - simmer onions, garlic (if liked), carrots, celery, leeks and a bay leaf or two in water. Season. Strain. Use immediately or freeze in batches for future use. If you want a meaty stock you can add the leftovers of your roast chicken (including the bones), or a ham bone, or whatever.
** As a rough guide, basil, thyme, oregano, marjoram etc go well with Mediterranean type ingredients (tomatoes, peppers, aubergines). I like curry spices (including garam masala) with creamy parsnip soup. Rosemary and garlic would be nice with a chicken soup. Fennel is traditionally used with fish. Thai spices (red curry paste, lemongrass, coriander etc) would be good with a light vegetable and noodle consomme. Savory is traditionally used with beans. But don't forget to experiment - that's half the fun. The key is to add a little first, stir and taste. Then you can add more if necessary. It is easier to add flavours than to take them away!
Troubleshooting soup tips:
If it's too salty, add a chopped potato or two. As they cook, they'll absorb some of the salt. You can also add extra water.
If it's too spicy, add some creamed coconut or some yoghurt, milk or cream.
If it seems to lack 'oomph' or tastes a bit bland, some good extra additions include a splash of soy sauce, or tabasco, or wine, or a squirt of tomato puree. Or maybe an extra stock cube (though this will increase the saltiness too).
Try not to overdo it with strong tasting ingredients such as parsnips, unless you want them to be the main flavour - if you're aiming for a mixed vegetable soup, too many parsnips could overwhelm more subtle flavours.
If you plan to add cream or yoghurt, wait until the end of cooking when the soup has been taken off the heat, or it may curdle.