Thursday, February 16, 2006

Chou for the soul


I read the words “soupe de chou” this morning on my way into work. It was in The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine by Rudolph Chelminski in his description of French food during the 1950’s. The book is an analysis of what drove 3 Michelin starred chef Bernard Loiseau in to commit suicide in February 2003; a thumping read about what drives chefs to get Michelin stars and the kind of thing that can happen when they lose them. It was a single line description of this provincial French classic and it hit me at a genetic level. Now, I’ve never cooked it before, can’t recall ever having eaten it , or even heard of it, in a French context but something, somewhere called out to me that I must make it. Some rogue Gallic gene in my past? I hope not, I’ll never get let in the pub again if it’s proven. It consists of a quartered cabbage cooked with pork. Traditionally, a large coronary inducing lump of fatty smoked bacon called lard, as distinct from the slightly scary lumps of lard that you might find in a British supermarket but having more in common with the comically named but delicately fragrant Italian cured pig fat lardo, or Spanish tocino.

Anyway, I didn’t have anything quite that artery hardening to hand. So figured that a pork loin from the supermarket might do the job. Wrong. Too lean and it dried up. I didn’t actually have a clue how to cook this soup. Just a name and a basic list of ingredients. Being up for a challenge and possessing a white cabbage I threw what I imagined where vaguely authentic ingredients. A made a good base for the soup with onion and the too lean pork and then added chicken stock and simmered until the cabbage was meltingly soft. Serving it with the quarters of cabbage intact made this a beautiful round soup for the soul. Tearing off great chucks with your spoon and appreciating the, in this case probably not pronounced enough, pork flavours where a revelation. I’ll probably try and find a recipe and see just how far off the mark I actually was.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

I really enjoyed the book. Hope you did. I was inspired to try the method of poaching eggs by first separating the white and yolk and putting them back together after cooking. The taste was incredible.