Steaming bowls of nutritious soup are welcome and warming in winter

Volunteers for three not-for-profit organizations are using soup ladles to stir up support for important causes. Support all three and you'll enjoy some good soup, take home a handmade bowl and acquire a fabulous new cookbook.

Victoria's Youth Empowerment Society provides skills, training, housing and counselling services to at-risk youth. Some of its funding is raised during the hugely popular Souper Bowls of Hope event. This year, it takes place Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1: 30 p.m., at the Inn at Laurel Point.

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For $25, attendees may select a handcrafted bowl, enjoy a soup lunch prepared by local chefs, listen to great music and bid on live and silent auction items. Tickets can be purchased at The Bay Centre's guest services, Ivy's Book Shop in Oak Bay and Tanner's Books in Sidney.

They're also available by phone at 250-383-3514, and at the door on event day.

B.C. Transit is getting on board for the fundraiser - it will provide free bus service between downtown and Laurel Point continuously from 11: 30 a.m. until 1: 30 p.m. To see the bus route map and for more details, go to souperbowls.com.

Another organization cooking up support through soup is Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers. This non-profit charitable group provides comfort to women, children and youth through the making, sharing and donating of soup in numerous Canadian cities, including Victoria. Calgarian Sharon Hapton, who sees soup as a nourishing gesture that could make a tangible difference, founded the group in 2009.

Participants pay a $50 registration fee to take part in a fun and lively soup-making event at a local professional kitchen. In Victoria, it's the London Chef, 953 Fort St.

Each event, with guidance from a chef facilitator, produces 150 to 200 servings of soup for a local shelter. When the soup-making is done, participants sit down to a supper of soup, salad, bread and wine. To sign up for an event, go to soupsisters.org and click on the Victoria link.

You can support Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers by purchasing the recently published The Soup Sisters Cookbook. Proceeds from sales will support the group's initiatives. The book contains 100 wonderful soup recipes, many created by Canadian food personalities, chefs and food writers, such as Karen Barnaby, Dan Hayes, Lucy Waver-man, Anna Olson and yours truly. Julie Van Rosendaahl took the book's mouth-watering photographs.

The book also offers advice on making stock, suggests equipment needed for successful soup-making and lists essential pantry ingredients. The Soup Sisters Cookbook is available at local bookstores and online retailers. Two recipes from the book are on page C3.

A third group ladling up soup is Sunrise Kitchen, formerly known as the 9-10 Club, which operates from the basement of Victoria's St. Andrew's Cathedral.

This registered not-for-profit society was started in 1982 by Murray Black, a man deeply troubled when he saw individuals searching for leftovers in a dumpster. He and his wife felt they needed to do something and they did. Each weekday for 29 years and counting, a group of volunteers serves soup to those in need of warmth and nutrition. On average, more than 200 individuals are served each day.

Volunteers arrive at 5 a.m. to cook the soup. Doors open at 8 a.m. to get folks inside and warmed up with coffee and the bottomless bowls of soup are served starting at 8: 30 a.m. The hopeful start to the day Sunrise Kitchen provides is made possible thanks to its team of volunteers and donations. To donate or volunteer, call 250-884-4459 or visit the website at 9-10club.ca.

One of the challenges Sunrise Kitchen faces is the lack of equipment to sauté; soups are made by simply placing ingredients in a steam kettle and letting them simmer. Kitchen coordinator and board member Sheila Connelly contacted me recently for a pea soup recipe that fit that parameter. They need to make many litres, but you'll find a reduced-portion version of it below to try.

The ultimate goal of Sunrise Kitchen is to eliminate the need to provide food for the hungry.

THROW-IT-ALL-IN-THE-POT PEA SOUP

This is a reduced-portion version of a pea soup recipe I developed for Sunrise Kitchen. Turn this stick-to-your-ribs soup into a filling meal by serving it with buttered slices of hearty bread or hot biscuits. The soup, once cooled to room temperature, freezes well.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: About 60 minutes

Makes: about 10 cups

1 1/2 cups green or yellow split peas

9 cups chicken or vegetable stock

150 grams sliced deli ham, such as country or black forest,

chopped

1 cup finely diced celery

1 cup finely diced onion

1/2 cup grated carrot

1/2 tsp ground sage

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp dried marjoram

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

? salt and freshly ground black

pepper to taste

2 green onions, thinly sliced (optional)

Rinse the peas well in cold water and then drain well (no need to soak). Place the peas in a soup pot with the stock, ham, celery, onion, carrot, herbs and cayenne. Bring soup to a gentle simmer, and simmer 50 to 60 minutes, or until peas are very tender and the soup has thickened.

(Thin the soup with a little more stock or water if it has reduced too much and become overly thickened.) Taste the soup, season with salt and pepper and it's ready. If desired, sprinkle servings with sliced green onion.

SPICY JAMAICAN PUMPKIN SOUP

This recipe by Christine Cushing is from The Soup Sisters Cookbook. Cushing says she tasted this soup on her first trip to Jamaica years ago and has been trying to replicate it ever since.

Make it anytime that Caribbean pumpkin (also called Jamaican pumpkin or calabaza) is available. You can also use any winter squash as a substitute, although it's not quite the same. Take it is easy on the Scotch bonnet chili; it's smokin' hot! Makes: about 6 servings 2 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 stalks celery, diced

2 large shallots, peeled and minced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

2 green onions, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped

1 lb Caribbean pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 4 cups)

4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock

1 seeded and minced Scotch bon-/4 net chili or 1 tsp chipotle chili powder

3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only

2 bay leaves

1 tsp ground allspice /8

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (optional)

? juice of 1 /2 lime

? salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the butter and oil. Sauté the celery, shallots, carrot, green onions and garlic until the shallots begin to soften and brown.

Add the remaining ingredients, except the coconut milk, lime juice, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low.

Cover with a lid and simmer until the pumpkin is very tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves. Purée the soup until smooth. Add the coconut milk and lime juice. Reheat over medium heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve up a hot and spicy bowlful.

TUSCAN BEAN SOUP

This recipe is also from The Soup Sisters Cookbook. It was created by Caren Mcsherry, cookbook author and owner of The Gourmet Warehouse in Vancouver.

Makes: about 6 servings

2 cups cooked white navy beans (drained and rinsed, if canned)

1 onion, diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 leek, white and pale green parts only, washed and sliced

1 cup olive oil /3

6 large Roma tomatoes, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only

8 cups chicken or vegetable stock

? salt and pepper to taste Sun-

dried tomato crostini (see below)

? freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Purée half the beans until smooth, adding a little water if necessary.

Place puréed beans in a bowl with the remaining whole beans and set aside.

In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the onion, carrot, celery and leek in the oil, until the onion is softened.

Stir in all the beans and the tomatoes, garlic and thyme.

Add the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low.

Simmer, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. While the pot simmers, prepare the crostini (see below).

Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into wide shallow bowls and garnish with grated Parmesan and playful floating sun-dried tomato crostini.

TO MAKE SUN-DRIED TOMATO CROSTINI

Thinly slice half a baguette and bake the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 350 F oven until dry and crispy, about 30 minutes.

In a small bowl combine 1 cup finely diced sun-dried /2 tomatoes and half a bunch of parsley, finely minced. Spoon the mixture sparingly onto the baguette slices.

eakis@timescolonist.com

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