Welcome to the first in my new series, #foodfrombooks. Last week, I went to see a lovely friend and we talked about my blogging. I have always been a lover of food and cooking, and I used to run a recipe blog called What To Have For Dinner Tonight. I really enjoyed sharing my recipes, but it became a lot of work and I regretfully gave it up. But, my friend had a new idea – cooking food from books. Novels in particular.
I asked you all in my Instagram page what you thought, and I was overwhelmed with the response. You had so many incredible ideas for food I could cook and I have so many exciting things I want to try!
One of the many ideas which was discussed was food from Jane Austen novels. Her witty and rounded characters are often attending balls and other social gatherings, and eat a huge variety of food – from glamorous sit down meals to the integral picnic in Emma.
I researched lots of the food, and the mention that I was drawn to was Mr Bingley’s white soup in Pride and Prejudice. It isn’t described in detail:
“If you mean Darcy,” cried her brother, “he may go to bed, if he chuses, before it begins—but as for the ball, it is quite a settled thing; and as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough I shall send round my cards.”
But, that was what pulled me in. What is white soup? How is it made? What does it taste like?
A google told me that it is a meat based soup with various white vegetables and enriched with cream. It sounds gorgeous, but I wanted to make a slightly more modern version without the hours long boiling of soup bones, so I hope you will like my variation! Because the ingredients weren’t described by Austen, I’m hopeful that I can get away with this.
You could easily make this vegetarian by missing out the chicken.
Are you ready? This would make an awesome starter at a dinner party or just eat like my husband and I did; with big chunks of fresh bread for a warming and hearty tea.
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2 white onions
4 garlic cloves
250g white asparagus (if you can’t find white, green will do but it will change your white colour)
300g closed cup mushrooms, or any other white mushrooms
1 glass white wine
2 tbsps white flour
4 chicken thighs, bone in
1 small bunch fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
200ml double cream
Salt and pepper
1. Start by roasting the chicken thighs in the oven. Put them in a roasting dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and add a few sprigs of thyme. Put in the oven at 180 degrees for about 35 – 40 minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden.
2. Pour the fat that cake from the chicken thighs into a large saucepan or casserole dish. Put on the hob, on a medium heat, and add the roughly chopped onions, leeks (white bits only!), mushrooms, asparagus and garlic. Cook gently (make sure the vegetables don’t colour- if they start to catch you need to turn the heat down).
3. Add the bay leaves and thyme. Add the flour, stir well, then tip in the wine and stir again. Now, add water gradually until all of the veg is covered. You’ll need around 750ml.
4. Season with salt and pepper, then leave to simmer gently for 30 minutes or until all of the vegetables are soft.
5. Now, use a food processor to whizz the soup until it’s smooth. (You could use a more accurate, historical method to fit with the age of the book but if you’ve got modern technology that’ll make the job easier, use it!) Add the cream, taste, and add more salt and pepper if needed.
6. Shred the cooked chicken thighs. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a handful of the chicken. You could top with a few chopped chives.
I hope you enjoy! If you make it, I’d love to hear your feedback. Also, let me know if you’ve recently come across any other food in books that you’d like me to make.
See you next time!