It turns out that the trip south took a toll: Kyle and my dad are on antibiotics for pneumonia, my stepmom has bronchitis, Jacob has a spider bite puffing up his left eye, and after a night spent holding Lucas upright while he coughed and gasped, we found out this morning that he too has bronchitis, plus a double ear infection. It all started with an innocent-seeming post-trip cold. It all went downhill from there. And as I watch my people getting sicker, and sadder, and cough-ier, I’m availing myself of every wellness-aid I can come up with.
On the phone, I tell my dad about the concoction I’ve been drinking. “It’s cider vinegar, left to rot in a jar with horseradish, garlic, onions, and chiles, then strained and sweetened with a dark local honey.” He doesn’t respond. “It’s an ancient health tonic,” I tell him. Still nothing. “Mine is sort of weak because I only had a few days to let it ripen.”
“No ancient civilization HAD all that stuff,” he finally says, in his grumbly voice.
“Well, maybe it’s colonial or something,” I say. “It’s a folk remedy.”
“No COLONIES had all that stuff,” he replies, and then we get off the phone because he’s having a coughing fit. I go to the kitchen and pour myself another shot of fire cider.
It’s not the only play in my hippie health book: I’m adding garlic and lemon juice to just about everything, topping my breakfast with bee pollen, drinking tea and tinctures and lots of water. I’m washing my hands, getting lots of sleep, and trying to make sure that most/all the snot Lucas breathes into my hair gets washed out. It’s part science, part psychology, all mixed up with a wish and a prayer and a big pot of soup.
I’m hoping it’s enough, to get them all better and keep me all well. Either way though, we’ll be making another pot of this soon: my dad might not believe in my fire cider, but this soup he will definitely love.
Heidi writes that she makes this soup when “fat raindrops are pelting the windows and the wind is whipping the magnolia tree out back.” It has been exactly that kind of weather here in the bay this past week – soup weather. I hadn’t made this one before, but a heaping pile of garlic, lots of warm curry powder, and a steaming bowl seemed just the thing as I tried to stock my arsenal of health against the continued onslaught of my family’s germs. It turns out though that not only is this soup warm and cozy and brimming with goodness, it is also surprisingly delicious. A few simple ingredients combine in an alert, flavor-forward bowl that is both comforting (potatoes, cabbage, butter) and bracing (curry and garlic are happy leads here, and for the adults they were also joined by a generous heap of kimchi and pour of hotsauce). Heidi calls for clarified butter, but I went ahead and used what I had on hand. We upped the garlic a bit, and the onion too, and used less curry powder than she calls for. She suggests vegetable stock, but I used one cup of chicken broth that I had on hand from another preparation, and four cups water. (We added a fair amount of salt at the end, perhaps because of the missing stock.)
This soup comes together easily (though your house will smell like you’ve been cooking something wonderful all day). We ate our bowls with thick slices from a loaf of homemade bread and called it dinner, but it would also make a nice part of a larger meal; it obviously would pair well with traditional Indian fare like saag, but could also accompany a simple platter of roasted veg, perhaps with some pomegranate-browned butter for dipping … Kyle commented that while it would have been excellent with chicken or lamb, it was really quite satisfying as a vegetarian soup, even to the meat-loving among us. Lucas ate only the potatoes from his bowl, but still when we took a vote about adding this to our regular soup rotation it was a unanimous yes.
8 ounces potatoes
1/2 head green cabbage
1 generous tablespoon butter
3 generous teaspoons Indian curry powder
5 large garlic cloves
1 medium yellow onion (or 2 small)
5 cups water or broth
2 cups (or 1 14-ounce can) cooked chickpeas
Kimchi, hot sauce, red pepper flakes, etc for serving.
Wash the potatoes, but do not peel them. Cut them into small dice and set aside. Remove the tatty leaves from the cabbage, and cut out the core. Slice the cabbage into thin ribbons (pencil width) and then cut the ribbons crosswise into inch-long pieces, and set aside.
Peel the onion and cut into thin slices, then set them aside. Mince the garlic and set that aside as well. Rinse the chickpeas and let drain in the colander while you start the soup.
In a large heavy pot, melt the butter over medium heat, with a teaspoon or so of olive oil. Stir in the diced potatoes and a big pinch of salt, then stir gently. Cook until the potatoes are tender and browning, about five minutes, stirring every minute or two to prevent burning or sticking. Stir in the curry powder. Let it coat the potatoes, and keep stirring for a minute or so, until you can really smell the spice. Add the garlic and onion, and a tablespoon of water. Cook, stirring, for another minute or two. Add the rest of the water or stock, and the chickpeas. Bring everything to a simmer, then add the cabbage. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the cabbage softens and slumps.
Taste and adjust the seasoning: we added a lot of salt at the end, probably because our Diamond Crystal kosher salt is not super salty, plus we used mostly water as our soup liquid. Anyway, salt and a nice grind of black pepper are great on top.
Worth a note: I heaped kimchi onto my bowl. Total “fusion” (ugh) but I loved the way the hot-sour juice cut the richer spiciness of the broth. Kyle found that a big splash of the vinegary Pique hot sauce from a favorite restaurant had the same delicious impact. But the kids ate theirs straight (a win) and the reheated bowl I had the next night, straight from the pot and with no toppings at all, was actually my favorite bowl of all.