Yes. I know it’s May. The second half of May no less but I can’t help it. I am a soup person. Unequivocally. In the winter I could live off soup. Buttered bread and soup for lunch on a cold snowy day? Probably one of the things I would miss most if I moved somewhere with a better climate. My kids love soup too. Sometimes Emmett says to me, “Mama, I’m SO hungry. I want soup!” It sounds kind of funny but I know what he means. He means he wants real food. Something savory, hearty and warm that will fill him up and make him feel good inside. I totally get it. I wonder if other kids like soup too. Is soup kid food the way animal crackers and mac ’n cheese are? Or is it just my kids? Do they like soup because I do? Because of genetics? Or because they see how soup makes me happy? I may never know. Because I’m not yet ready to say goodbye to Saturdays spent with a big pot of soup on the stove and the prospect of leftovers for an easy weeknight dinner, I’m making chicken soup and brown bread today. We’ve got the whole summer ahead of us to break out the grill.
It’s hard to believe I never tried brown bread, or even heard of it, before I met my husband. Back when we were dating, there were times when we would stay at my father-in-law Paddy’s house. In the morning, Paddy and I would always be the first to wake up (by a significant margin) and he would make me breakfast and tell me stories about Ireland, his wife and his adventures in Belize and America after leaving Ireland. We would sit at the table, chatting and drinking tea, eating sausages, eggs, beans and warm brown bread long before my husband or his siblings made their way downstairs. Now that we have little ones, those leisurely breakfasts with Paddy have turned into chaotic dinners with kids running all over the place, but I love brown bread as much as ever and it always brings be back to those early mornings sipping tea at his table.
I’m sure that if you do a quick internet search you can find a million recipes for brown bread, I have tried a few myself (the one I liked best was written in glaze on a ceramic platter that I saw in Paddy’s on the Square). Today I am using a mix from the Irish Boutique so we can have warm, freshly baked brown bread while focusing mainly on preparing the soup. Because sometimes just getting lunch on the table can be difficult enough, especially when you’re 9 months pregnant with two hungry offspring nipping at your toes.
For the bread, just add milk to the plastic ziptop bag with the mix in it and mix it around in the bag until no clumps remain. Perfect (messless) job for a kid! It even comes with a baking tin. No dishes to wash. Because it’s so easy to make, you can almost always find the time to throw it together and slip it in the oven just before lunch. That way, you can eat some fresh out of the oven. Any leftovers can stay out in a bag or bread bin for a few days or you can slice it and freeze for another time.
Below is one of my go-to soup recipes. It’s simple, healthy, inexpensive to make, and the kids love to wake up from their naps and have a big bowl of soup waiting for them.
Chicken, Bean and Vegetable Soup
Serves my family of 4 at least a couple of times.
For the Soup
1 onion, diced
½ cup carrots, diced
½ cup celery, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
3 cups kale, chopped
Chicken (I use whatever amount is leftover from making the chicken stock or in my fridge from another meal)
1 can chickpeas (I’m not sure that it matters whether or not you drain the liquid in the can, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t)
2 bay leaves
4 cups of chicken stock* or broth
Parmesan rind (optional - throw one in if you have one lurking in the fridge somewhere)
Lemon juice from half of a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes
More lemon juice
*If I’m organized enough, and have a chicken around, I start the night before by putting what’s left of a store-bought rotisserie chicken (we often eat one of these at some point during the week), a couple of bay leaves, a few sprigs of thyme, an onion, a carrot and a stalk or two of celery in a crockpot for about 12 hours. When it’s done I strain and defat the stock and pick all of the remaining chicken meat off the bones, reserving it for the soup.
When it’s time to make the soup, saute the onion, carrots and celery in butter or olive oil over medium to medium-low heat until they are soft and the onion is translucent, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 2 more minutes.
Next, turn the heat up to medium-high and add the chicken stock. Once the stock is boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer, add the bay leaves, parmesan rind (if using) a pinch of salt and chickpeas and cook for about 20 minutes.
At this point, I use my immersion blender to puree some, but not all, of the vegetables and chickpeas. Blending up some of the veggies and chickpeas thickens the soup, and leaving the rest whole provides texture.
After blending, add the chicken, season with salt and pepper and simmer for another 20 minutes. Add the kale and simmer for another 10 minutes or so.
Squeeze lemon juice into the soup, check seasoning again, garnish with whatever you like and serve.