I feel truly grotty today – seem to have picked up the flu bug that is doing the rounds. The thought of going home and cooking is grim, and that started me dreaming of soup – I love soup.
This reminded me of a post that I wrote round about this time last year, which I am re-posting today. It is for a quick and delicious soup, with a story behind it.
With the weather being chilly in Maritzburg this past weekend, and with some of us being down with colds, me included, all I felt up to making and eating was some quick soup. So I made a big pot full of Anushka’s Czech soup. Is this a genuine Czech soup? I don’t know. Did I get the recipe from a genuine Czech person? Yes, I did – from Anushka, who was my sister-in-law.
It’s been a while since I shared a “family legend” story with you, so here’s another one. Again, some of this is hearsay – I don’t vouch for ‘historicity’.
Anushka was born of fairly well-to-do parents who owned property on the outskirts of Prague, in Czechoslovakia. At the age of fifteen, she fell in love with a much older musician. When his mother found out, she insisted that he marry Anushka. They had a son, who was born before Anushka turned 16.
Her husband played for an orchestra, and so went on tours to the West – on one of these tours, he defected, and sought political asylum in South Africa. Anushka and their son were left in Prague.
Some years later, when the political situation had eased a bit, Anushka and her husband arranged to meet at a border post (I’m not sure which one, seem to remember it being East Berlin); the child was to go through the border for an hour to see his father, and then return to his mother, who would be held at the border post as ‘guarantee’ of the boy’s return.
At the border post, Anushka begged the guards to allow her to walk her little boy across to see his father; she promised to return with the child at the set time, but how could a little boy be expected to go all on his own? She was a very beautiful young woman – the guards felt sorry for her, and allowed it.
Once re-united, the little family kept on going. Anushka left her family, home and everything she owned, and set off for South Africa with her husband and child. She had with her only the clothes she was wearing.
Anushka and her husband eventually divorced, and she remarried a man who beat her. Again she divorced. Not long after, she met my brother – he was 9 years younger then she was, and physically disabled. He had recently been confined to a wheelchair, but he was a vibrant, good-looking and very intelligent man. Anushka started visiting him regularly, and fell in love with him. She asked him to marry her; he told her to take a good look at him, and not be silly.
This did not deter her, she had made up her mind that she wanted to marry him. When he developed feelings for her too, he spoke long and seriously with her, pointing out what her life would involve if she were to marry him. Then he told her to stay away for a month, and think about it very carefully.
She stayed away 2 weeks, and then came back, insisting that they marry – and so they did, a month later. Their marriage lasted 2 1/2 happy years, until my brother died in Anushka’s arms one quiet Sunday morning.
Anushka remained a part of our family, even though she married twice again. With the re-establishment of the Czech Republic, she was able to return home and see her family again, and claim her share of the family inheritance. Her last husband was a kind Czech man with a big family. She visited us every few years, to see my parents, who were her beloved ‘Mummy and Daddy’. She always cried when she spoke about my brother.
We got a call about 2 years ago from Anushka’s son to say that she was very ill with leukaemia and had about 2 weeks left to live. I was able to phone and speak to her in Prague one more time, and she assured me she would beat the disease. She passed away two days later.
This is the soup recipe that I got from her more than 20 years ago; I remember standing in her kitchen, with a baby on my hip, (my youngest daughter) and Anushka laughing and chattering in heavily accented English, larger than life, as always, while she made soup for lunch. She said this was how they made quick soup in the Czech Republic, and this is how I made it on Saturday:
Quick Czech Soup
3 Tbsp Butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 pkt bacon, thinly sliced (or other smoked meat)
1/2 punnet mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 head cabbage, finely shredded (no long pieces)
1 small cauliflower, broken into tiny florets
1 small broccoli, also broken up finely
2 potatoes, grated
2 litres chicken stock, more or less, preferably homemade or Ina Paarman’s is good 🙂
Salt and pepper, to taste
Vary the amounts according to how many people you need to feed.
- Melt the butter in a large soup pot,
- add the onions and fry until softened, then add the bacon, frying until each piece is separated and cooked.
- Add each vegetable progressively, stirring and blending the flavours, allowing each one to soften and fry a little before the next one goes in the pot.
- The lovely smoky bacon will flavour the soup beautifully.
- Add the stock, and allow the soup to simmer briskly. It should take about 20 minutes until it’s done. It should be fragrant and full of vegetables, not watery.
- Check the seasonings, and serve with hot fresh bread.
Sorry, no photos. Have a good day!