JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Lady Westmorland's soup

This is a recipe to challenge your definition of luxury, however frugal you are. It's from Florence White's Good Things in England, first published in 1932 with the idea of preserving six decades of traditional English methods of cookery. This particular recipe proves that there is nothing new under the sun; it could hardly be more pared down, more minimalist (if you can have more minimalism).

Lady Westmorland's soup

This is nothing more than the water in which young cabbage has been boiled according to the directions given on page 208 ... It is extremely good and delicate and tastes very much like chicken broth. It is not merely an economy but a luxury; one of the best of health and beauty drinks.

The instructions given on page 208 are headed The Right Way to Cook Cabbage. These instructions are a culinary operation that has been dealt with scientifically by Dr Ellen Marion Delf (Mrs Percy Smith DSc) whose name is known all the world over in connection with the scientific tests she made for several years with various fruits and vegetables (particularly with orange and swede juice, cabbage and tomatoes) to discover their vitamin value and the best method of preserving it when they were cooked.

This is what you do to Cook Cabbage the Right Way: wash the (young) cabbage (old cabbage should never be cooked at all: it is worthless), cut it into quarters, remove old leaves and cut out tough stems. Put the quarters into rapidly boiling slightly salted water. Boil rapidly with the lid off for 10 minutes, and absolutely no longer than 15 minutes. Lift out, drain by pressing slightly. If you have cooked it properly it will be slightly crisp, and not saturated with water. If you want it chopped, now is the moment to chop it. Cabbage should not be kept waiting; it should be cooked and served immediately.

I haven't yet cooked Lady Westmorland's Soup - first of all the cabbage in my fridge could really only be described as old, so I thought it was better not to risk Dr Delf's wrath by cooking it. And secondly, I have a problem with this: if the cabbage can't be kept waiting, then we'll have to eat the vegetable course before the soup. Or reheat the soup, which probably isn't very good for the vitamins, especially the fugitive delicate Vitamin C, as Florence White calls it.

All the same, this is my entry for this month's Heart of the Matter: soup is this month's theme. It's undoubtedly heart-healthy, it's certainly frugal, and is, I suppose, luxurious in the sense that it's very very good for you, rather than in the sense of let's-spend-all-the-money-we-haven't-got-in Harrods/Armani/Gucci/Jimmy Choo/etc etc

I'm sure many of you know the HotM "rules" by now, but here's a recap: all you have to do is to send me the link to your entry at joannacary AT ukonline DOT co DOT uk by 24 January, make a link to Joanna's Food and to the HotM blog as well if you like. I'll post the round up on both blogs. In order to keep this focused on heart health we ask you to consider this as a one-entry event, i.e. we prefer that you don't use your post for other events as well.


Toffeeapple said...

Crikey, I wish my Mother had known it bore an aristocratic name! I was always given the cabbage water to drink as a child. I used to eat raw bacon rind too; oh, and raw sausagemeat..

David Hall said...

Hi Joanna

Sounds nasty. Just to get it into my thick Geordie head, all I need to do is post a healthy soup recipe linking to you?


Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a 'wartime soup recipe' quoted in the New Covent Garden soup book: "Take one bean (haricot or butter) and 7 pints of water. Simmer for three weeks, then take out the bean and season to taste. If thick soup is preferred, leave the bean in.”

Joanna said...

Well, toffeeapple, I think that Florence White's book was a real bestseller in its time, and that lots of people cooked their cabbage according to these instructions - I just love the idea of Lady W getting in on the act somehow

Yes David, link to me, send me an email, and I'll link back to you later in the week ... looking forward to hearing from you (love the Sussex Pond pud - I've always wanted to cook it too, maybe this week)

Eleanor - do you think that was a joke? Maybe it's another one to try, but you can't think of any rationale at all for calling that luxurious!


Anonymous said...

Joanna, I haven't forgotten. Do check on my soup post by tomorrow.