There are two things I love: books and food. I’m never happier than when I can combine the two.
In August I reviewed Rosy Thornton’s evocative and moving Tapestry of Love. It is set in the Cevennes valley in France and while it is a love story, it is deeply redolent of the landscape, weather, people and food of that area. The paperback version of Tapestry of Love has been released and to celebrate Rosy is offering readers of Charlotte’s Web a series of recipes for the food that her characters cook and serve during the course of the novel. In the 15 pages of recipes, Rosy includes salads, aoili, stews and something I won’t be waiting for Christmas to make: Devils at Horses’ Heels.
As a taster, here is Rosy’s cevennol recipe for lovage soup:
Potage à l’Herbe de Maggi (Lovage Soup)
This thick green soup is served to Catherine at the al fresco meal shared by the inhabitants of La Grelaudiere in the Mériels’ orchard to celebrate the spring transhumance. It has the distinctive, astringent taste of lovage, a herb which in French is formally called ‘la liveche’ but which is known to many French people as ‘l’herbe de Maggi’ because it is a key ingredient in bottled stocks produced by the Maggi company since before the war.
If you do not have lovage in your garden (where I promise, once introduced, it will grow like a rampant triffid), then substituting parsley will make for a pleasant (though rather different) herb soup.
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
a good colander full of lovage leaves, rinsed and with any tough stalks removed
1½ pints of good chicken stock
1 oz butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ pint cream (optional)
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the garlic, onion and potatoes and sweat, stirring, over a low heat until soft but not browned. Add the lovage and pour over the chicken stock, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until all the vegetables are soft, then blend in a food processor or with a hand-held blender. The soup should be smooth and quite thick, but if necessary it can be thinned a little with more stock, or with milk. If you like, you may add cream to make the soup richer – though that is not how Madame Mériel serves it!
Just mention in the comments if you would like the recipes and I will email them to you. You’ll be so glad you did!