There is a feature of food writing that I’ve seen again and again; particular words seem almost guaranteed to provoke a spat, especially online, on social media. Words like ‘Paella’, ‘Rice & Peas’, ‘Baba Ghanoush’ and even ‘Bolognese’. In their book Jerusalem (which is just so excellent. I cannot recommend it enough), Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi entitled their Baba Ghanoush recipe ‘Burnt Aubergine with garlic, lemon & pomegranate seeds’, and dedicate a page to explaining why the topic is so contentious. This is serious stuff, and people get passionate about it.
As it happens, this soup bears little enough resemblance to Goulash to not have to worry too much about the name, but it did begin as a kind of bastardised goulash, then branched off with each subsequent iteration as a result of my tastes, what I had in at the time, and simple forgetfulness.
What it is though is exactly the kind of thing I want to eat on a cold day; rich, smooth tomato soup, based on a lip-smacking pork stock which also provides the meat which gives the finished product such a satisfyingly chunky, satisfying texture. After a couple of days of glorious sunshine and springy warmth, today it was 3°C and snowy outside, so this soup topped with a dollop of creme fraiche, alongside thickly cut, crusty, day-old bread and a couple of vegetable sides was exactly the thing.
This is either one for the weekend (it’s also an excellent candidate for freezing, so suits batch cooking well, and can be made in any quantity you like, provided you have a big enough pot) or, for those who work at home like I often do, something you can very easily throw together during the day, requiring as it does very little time at the stove until right at the very end (and even then, not a lot.)
Also, feel very free to make the stock whenever you have time to, not necessarily on the day.
You will need, for four to six people:
For the stock
- 1.5kg Pork Bones, preferably with a few chunky pieces of meat clinging to them (these are either a butcher’s freebie or extremely cheap)
- A Bay Leaf
- A Large Carrot, sliced into chunky rounds
- An Onion, peeled and cut into eighths
- A Rib of Celery, sliced into chunks
- Half a tsp Peppercorns
For the soup
- A thick slice of Butter, or a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil if you don’t fancy the butter (but why on earth wouldn’t you?)
- An Onion, finely chopped
- A Carrot, finely diced
- 2 Big Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
- A Rib of Celery, finely diced
- A teaspoon of Smoked Paprika (sweet or hot, depending on your preference)
- A slug of Port, Sherry, Marsala, Wine, at a push. Just see what’s in the cupboard
- A Tin of Tomatoes
- The Pork stripped from the stock bones, diced
- Salt and Pepper
- A small bunch of Parsley, finely chopped
- Some Creme Fraiche
First, preheat your oven hot, like 250°C sort of thing, and roast the bones for 15-20 minutes, til they take on some colour and char a little in places.
Put the roasted bones into a large pot with the other stock ingredients, cover with water, and bring to a hard boil. Maintain a rolling boil for about ten minutes, skimming off any scum or impurities that rise to the surface (sometimes there are a lot, sometimes not, I guess it just depends on the bones), then reduce the heat to a bare simmer and let it go for a minimum of 5-6 hours, or longer if you have the time (Japanese Tonkotsu stock, based on Pork fat and bones is usually boiled for around 24 hours, so pork bones, evidently, can take it). Around 2 or 3 hours in, fish a bone out, give the meat a tug and, if it comes away easily, strip the bones of any chunks of meat (anything you can see yourself eating; anything too cartilaginous or gristly should go back into the pot) setting them to one side, before returning the bones to the pot for the remainder of the cooking time.
When the stock is done, drain it through a fine-meshed sieve (you could line it with a muslin if you like, but this doesn’t need to be the ‘cleanest’ stock in the world) and set aside.
In a clean, deep pan, heat the butter til it bubbles, then add the onion, carrot, garlic and celery, turn the heat down, and leave to cook for a minimum of ten minutes or, if you have time anywhere up to about 40 (it’s worth it, but keep an eye on the pan) til they’ve softened, but not browned.
Throw in the paprika and stir it for a minute or so.
Tip in the port (or other booze) and boil in for a couple of minutes.
Tip in the tomatoes, straight from the can, giving each a squeeze with your free hand to crush them one by one.
Pour in a litre of the stock, and boil fairly hard for a few minutes, til a little reduced. At this point I whizz it all up using a stick blender til smooth, but if you prefer a chunkier soup, don’t bother.
Add the diced meat, heat through, check the seasoning, add the parsley and ladle into bowls. Finish each with a generous dollop of creme fraiche, a grind of the peppermill and, if you’re really feeling saucy, a few drops of your best extra virgin olive oil.
We ate ours with thick, crusty bread (I promise a bread entry on this site is incoming. As you can see, we eat a lot of it), corn cobs, and a raw salad of grated beetroots, carrots, and finely sliced red cabbage, dressed with a simple vinaigrette.
As we stared out of the window, watching what was hopefully the last of the winter’s snow fall outside, it felt good to be eating a warming, real soup there in the comfort of the kitchen.