Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Let it Snow


Yesterday morning Bridport woke to find itself clothed in a fine layer of snow. Only the third time for Finn, so all the more thrilling as we vicariously enjoyed his delight. As the morning wore on, salt breeze playing over the grass, sun warming the air a little, the snow melted back into the earth, leaving only a little slush in the gutter that splashed up our backs as we cycled home. Finn salvaged what was left under a bush on the sheltered side of the house and stashed it lovingly in the freezer.

The rest of the country came to a standstill, factory lines ground to a halt, lorries lay at the side of the road like earthworms dug up and blinking in the light. Snow fell, and fell, and fell, in great drifts,  muffling the busy work day week into an unexpected holiday.

Nick was tucked up warm with an early night, after a tense drive home from snowbound London. I  on the other hand just couldn't sleep as the snow had me feeling all Christmas eve. So after a little stitching and television I found myself in the dark kitchen cradling a mug of chamomile, watching the night.

Snow had started to fall again while the house slept. Fat flakes fell in an endless drift from the sky, magically appearing from the blackness and twirling their way inevitably down to land thickly on the ground. The lawn was already obscured by a thick white blanket that reached across our garden and into the road, vehicles and postboxes stranded like bumper cars abandoned here and there at the end of a ride.

Bushes on the lawn looked edible as crystalised roses, encrusted with sparkling white sugar, dredged on from above with a generous hand. There was such absolute quiet, I realised that I was holding my breath, waiting for something. I held my warm cup close to my lips and breathed out a steamy shawl , like a child misting the sweetshop window.

The night sky was alive with dancing snowflakes as they followed every gust of wind, chasing each other to the ground, sparkling miraculously through the inky night to appear like a shower of gold leaf under the sodium glow of street lamps. For such a show of sparkle and life, they fell in complete silence.

My ear waited for a sound to come, seagull or distant engine hum and yet there was none. The town slept deep, as though a spell had been cast, as though I had stepped through our kitchen door into Narnia or a silent movie. Whilst I wasn't looking, the town had taken a sleeping draught and twelve princesses skipped away through forests of silver trees, to dance all night and ruin their flimsy silk slippers, unseen by any but me.

At last, in the midst of all this magical silence and chamomile scented imagining, a car crunched gingerly down the hill, rolling to a slow stop on the other side of the road. A pair of black tracks followed it through the pristine snow. The spell was broken. I drained my cup and headed for bed.

When it snows, you want to be out there enjoying the miracle - not stuck in the kitchen. So here's a soup that can be made in minutes, tastes as creamy, delicate and satisfying as something that you spent hours over, and features a super food centre stage. Get out there and throw snowballs with abandon, knowing you can be sitting down to a bowl of this almost before the snow has melted on your wellingtons.

Broccoli, Garlic and Lemon Zest Soup (SCD) (serves 4-6)

If you need to reheat this, do so very gently or you will destroy the fresh flavour and end up with something rather cabbagy. It's best made fresh.

1 lb broccoli florets
1 oz butter
3-4 cloves of garlic
zest of 1 lemon
2 large pinches of sea salt

Wash and chop the broccoli into small florets.

Mince the garlic finely and melt the butter gently over a low flame in a medium to large saucepan. When the butter has melted, add garlic and sweat for a couple of minutes until translucent but not coloured at all.

Grate the zest from the lemon and add to the pan with salt and brocolli, stir to coat.

Pour over 1 1/2 pints of boiling water and bring back up to the boil again.

Boil gently - a kind of aggressive simmer, not a rolling boil - until the stalks of the broccoli are soft, but still bright green. Don't let the broccoli turn olive green or the soup will lose its freshness.

Puree in a blender (or with a stick blender) until completely smooth and creamy. Adjust seasoning to taste, adding more salt or some black pepper if you like, possibly a little lemon juice - but not too much.

Pour into bowls and garnish with a little yogurt.