A cold grey wet morning was just the thing to inspire me to cook up something warm and perky - Carrot and Ginger soup leapt out at me from Russell's Soup Bible, so I bimbled off to East Street to buy the ingredients - well most of them. In the words of Ol Blue Eyes, I Did It My Way. Had to wait a while to get served, but was entertained by the trader on the next stall punting out duvets with patter like "it's got a 25-year guarantee - as long as you never use it", etcetera. If any of these people go out of business, they can always take up writing the gags in Xmas crackers! Markets always cheer me up, but supermarkets have the opposite effect...
Once back in the Centre, I got cracking and sweated 2lbs/1kg onions with 2lbs/1kg of carrots and a smallish head of celery for about 20 minutes. Then I added 6 cloves of garlic and a large lump of ginger - about 2 thumbs' worth - and continued cooking while I peeled and diced 5lbs/2.5kg of carrots. I added them to the pot with about 7 litres of Marigold vegetable stock, brought the soup to boil and let it simmer for approx 15 minutes. I stirred in lots of black pepper during and, after the cooking, and got our colleague Brenda the Blenda to do the business with her blades. I'd bought 8lbs/4kg of carrots in total, so had 1lb left, which I grated straight into the pot as the soup was bubbling away. I simmered the pot for another 5 mins and finally added about 50g of creamed coconut: just enough to make it creamy and give it a bit more body, as I didn't want the flavour of coconut to be obvious in this soup.
I served the soup with bread from the Old Post Office Bakery in Landor Rd, Stockwell (left). This is a worker's co-operative that makes organic bread which you'll find in many wholefood shops in South London, as well as Fareshares. You can also buy from the bakery direct, which is what I do as you get it slightly cheaper and can choose from their whole range. They sell a large loaf for about £1-20 as opposed to anything up to £4 in some (WARNING: IMMINENT RANTING) poncey rip-off wholefood delicatessen. But let's keep it friendly. As well as the staff of life, I also recommend their delicious cakes, biccies and pizza. In fact, just thinking about it is making me ravenous, so let' me finish this blog entry so I can go there now and stuff my craw.
My sole New Years Resolution is to get the soup ready by midday, but today I fell at the first hurdle by failing to get out of bed in time. I am going to try harder, I promise. Luckily there's some kind of magic in the Pullens Centre and one of the myriad of ways this manifests itself is that, no matter what time the soup is ready, that is the exact moment the first punters arrive. This time, it was a pair of our stalwarts, Linda Brooker and Bruce Webb. Every time I do this, I worry that no-one's going to turn up and I'm going to be left with a whole pot of soup, but every week it all gets eaten - hooray !
Soon the place was busy and warm and full of life. There was plenty of second portions and cups of tea all round. I love coming to the Centre every week to make soup. The Pullens' community is sadly unique (not the other way round thankfully). There's no communities left like this in London and, as someone who doesn't actually live on the estate, trust me, it's a very special place. I know the spirit of the place is the result of the Pullens community having been born from the squatting movement, while all the other large local squatted communities were broken up years ago and the buildings either demolished (e.g.: St Agnes Place, R.I.P) or evicted, gentrified and none of its' original guardians living there (e.g.: Oval Mansions).
So Big Up all the Pullens ex-squatters who through sheer hard work and bloody-mindedness ensured that neither of those things happened here.
One of the people working in Peacock Yard offered his services in the near future to help cooking/serving one day. This was in response to the flyers asking for volunteers. We are delighted with any offers of help - don't feel you have to be here all day - a few hours you can spare even only as a one-off is most welcome and this is the spirit of the whole enterprise: to encourage a feeling of ownership of the Centre by the community. So if you have an urge to get involved, don't be shy - it's great fun.
The other way the Pullens Centre magic manifests itself is that we nearly always serve 23 bowls of soup. Today it was 22, but as I was locking the door, a woman came along asking if we were still serving... (cue Twilight Zone music).