Sunday, January 02, 2011

New Years Day

I thought there would be plenty of religious celebrations on January 1st. There doesn't seem to be. The Catholics used to celebrate the Circumcision of Christ, but now it is a holy day of obligation to celebrate Mary as Mother of God. I also read something about it being a bit of penance for the pagan festivities of the night before. But I couldn't find anything delicious to eat.

But yesterday was Shogatsu, Shinto New Years. In Japan people woke up and ate a soup called Ozoni. It is prepared differently based on where you come from and I read from a number of sources that you can pinpoint a person's village based on how they eat their soup. The most important, and defining ingredient seems to be mochi, a steamy sticky Japanese rice cake. There are recipes all over the internet if you google it.

I really like the idea of soup on the first day of the year. For us it's almost always a cold, (hopefully snowy) day to cuddle up and be warm so soup is the perfect meal. Plus there is something simple and unassuming about soup which makes room for all the other thoughts and pieces that the new year's day brings.

Twitter was awash in soup yesterday. Is a new year's day soup a thing? I know the Persians make one for Norouz in March that sounds delicious and that I plan on making, but seriously, is it? Do you, dear Reader (hi mom!) make soup on New Years Day? This is the fourth New Years Day that C and I have spent on our own terms and they seem to involve pancakes for brunch (except last year when I attempted a more elaborate brunch which while good isn't something I'll do again) and soup for supper. The January 1 in Paris we ate an onion soup, which we ate an awful lot while we were in Paris, not because it was authentically French but because we were authentically poor ("ahh, when we were poor in Paris" we say now). Last year I made harira (Ottolenghi's recipe, again. Really I should just turn this into an Ottolenghi love in). Anyways.

So I had planned to make the actual Shinto soup onizo. But I realised early that the spirit of the religious festival may sometimes be more important that the letter. We got back from Vienna on the 30th and the shops closed early so there wasn't much time to stock up on groceries for the weekend. Getting dashi and odd fish stick things proved impossible. My local shops are great but they are more Turkish than Japanese and I haven't got a pantry full of Japanese staples. So instead of making the perfect Japanese Shinto new years soup to honour the past, I made Moro's Chestnut and chorizo soup, to honour the day.

And it was delicious and you should make it too.

4 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion
1 carrot
1 celery stick
2 cooking chorizo sausages

Throw these into the food processor and chop them up.

Warm your soup pot and add the olive oil. Add the food processor contents and let fry slowly and gently, caramelising, for twenty minutes until the whole kitchen smells divine.

2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp thyme leaves (supposed to be fresh but I used dried)
1 dried red chilli crumbled

Stir and let cook for two minutes.

Add Half a 400ml can of tomatoes, roughly chopped

Stir nicely together then add
400g cooked peeled chestnuts, chopped (this is two packages of the vacuum packed ones you can get at the store)
A big pinch of saffron threads, infused in 3-4 tbsp boiling water
750 ml water

Simmer for 10-15 minutes, then take off the heat and mash all the little chestnut bits with a potato masher until it is a smoother, but still rustic, texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a drop or two of sherry vinegar.

We ate it (almost all) with yogurt flatbread and finished it up with a lemon cake and clementine confit.

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