It's amazing, the goodwill generated over the past month by the simple expedient of making fresh soup and serving it for whatever people are willing to give in return.
To take just one pertinent example, I'd expected to pay around a hundred quid to get our liqudiziser, AKA the liquidimifier, fixed. This industrial stick mixer was donated to the Soup Kitchen, but was on its last legs: it worked, just not very well.
Gaynor, at Denton's, opposite Clapham North tube, identified its manufacturer over the phone by its orange handle as Dynamic and said it would be sent away for servicing. The inspection fee would be sixty quid and then there'd be the cost of the parts: new blades and a lead. I took it down there the afternoon we closed, on October 31, as my cold was brewing. But then they reckoned it also needed new barings and a new handle, too: two hundred quid at least! Gaynor reckoned I'd be better off buying a new one. Except I couldn't afford a new one. I'd have to pay sixty quid to get the old one back in bits! There had to be another way.
Happily, when I explained that the Soup Kitchen isn't a commercial enterprise and its operation absolutely depends upon the soup-making machine, Gaynor was sympathetic. She said she'd have a word with the engineer and he's sorted us out with an ex-demonstration PMX98 Mini-mixer (300W, 40L, 300mm shaft) for fifty quid! Plus VAT = £58.75. I picked it up morning and, as Monday is Gaynor's day off, I didn't get to thank her in person, but will name the appliance she supplied in her honour. Or maybe I'll call it Gloria. Thanks too, of course, to the anonymous engineer from Mitchell & Cooper. What a gent.
Here's my almost definitive Pullens Soup Kitchen recipe for Spacey Carrot & Coriander:
From the greengrocer: I big onion, weighing at least half a kilo; a flowering head of celery; six kilos of carrots, roughly; and two bunches of fresh coriander.
Also: half a 200g block of creamed coconut - that's 100g! - dissolved in a litre of boiling water; a couple of dessert spoons full of coriander seed, dry roasted over medium heat in a cast iron pan, then powdered in an electric coffee grinder.
Plus: Five litres of Marigold bouillon. A dusting of nutmeg, or allspice.
1. Dice the onion and start cooking it in the bottom of the soup pot in a little oil over low heat, lid on.
2. Chop the leafy top off the celery and reserve it. Chop up all the rest of the celery stems and add them to the pot.
3. Cook for five minutes while peeling and chopping carrots, then add the powdered coriander seed to the pot and cook for a further five minutes while continuing to peel/chop carrots.
4. Add the carrots you've peeled/chopped to the pot and cover with two litres of Marigold bouillon.
5. Peel the rest of the carrots and chop 'em all up, save four big ones. Add the chopped carrots to the soup with another two litres of bouillon and simmer for fifteen minutes.
6. While the soup simmers, coarsely grate two of the reserved carrots.
7. Chop the leaves from the bunches of coriander and reserve them. Put the coriander stalks through a masticating juicer, chasing them through with the two remaining carrots, and reserve the intense green liquid.
8. Turn off the heat under the soup pot and leave it to stand for ten minutes with the lid on before blending the soup using a stick mixer like our very own glorious Gaynor.
9. While waiting for the soup to cool before blending, finely chop a generous handful of the reserved coriander leaves for garnish and, when it comes to blending, add the rest of the coriander at the last minute with a further litre of bouillon and whizz the leaves into the soup.
10. Finish the soup by blunding in the creamed coconut, the grated carrot and the coriander juice returning the soup pot to the heat to warm it through.
Another marvellous thing happened today with the soup. We've got great big pepper grinder that came from the same donor as the original stick blender. It's been on the counter for the past month and we've all been merrily twisting 'black pepper' over everything. But today that mill turned out to contain allspice! Just what was needed to garnish this soup as it was served.
bowl by Daniel Reynolds
Today, Pullens Soup Kitchen served 23 bowls of spacey spicy carrot and coriander soup and, although our regulars were reticent in the log bok, one anonymous soul wrote: 'Good to see you back in good health. The illness has not affected your ability to make fantastic soup. This is my favourite so far!' That's what they all say, all the time!!