As you can see from this picture of the sun in the tree opposite the Pullens Centre, the weather this past few days has been crystal clear and freezing cold. The kind of conditions that surely call for the kind of hot and spicy soup of which Signor Atif is a past master.
Carlo is establishing himself as the Soup Kitchen's midweek attraction and his style is becoming familiar: on Wednesday, he makes a powerfully-flavoured soup which he calls by some enigmatic name that gives no clue as to the constituents of the soup, although its usually supported by such weighted adjectives as 'vegan' and 'organic'. This week's concoction was billed as 'Sweet 'n' sour Valentine': basically, a very gingery orange broth with pearl barley in the bottom. When I say gingery, it cleared the sinuses. Carlo told me he made it 'Thai style' and I'm not sure what that means, but I suspect what he did was grate the ginger and boil it up to make an infusion, added to finish what was a sensational and distinctly adult soup.
The day after, Carlo tends to extend what's left of his soup from the day before by adding a green vegetable puree, re-jigging the spices, and serving the soup with garlic bread as croutons. This week, he used broccoli (billed on the black board as 'Something Fab') and the resulting soup was thicker and heartier. Or maybe that was just me, getting into the festive mood a couple of weeks early.
Freed from the need to make soup from scratch, Carlo can focus his considerable culinary expertise upon the pasta, as Thursday is Pasta Nite. Again this week, he served fusilli with an extraordinary, fruity veggie sauce that defies conventional notions of Italianate, tomato-based pasta dishes. This one incorporated rhubarb (rhubarb!), which was a first for me, and was accompanied by a crisp carrot and sultana salad. Which was nice.
Although there weren't really enough takers to make it worth his while, hopefully Carlo will persevere with Pasta Nite for at least a few weeks into the New Year, until sufficient numbers of people get used to the idea that they can eat their dinner at the Pullens Centre on Thursday evenings.