Don’t be fooled by the blue skies and the sun’s shadows, they were but a fleeting visit, lasting for a matter of seconds before being replaced by heavy black clouds. This weekend Storm Amelie, the first named storm of the autumn swept in from the Atlantic lashing our coastline with winds of up to 160kph. As the crow flies we’re just a few kilometres inland and so we felt the full strength of the gale force winds. But these old stone houses have withstood much worse over the centuries, we simply closed the shutters.
This morning as we awoke to rain lashing against the house the winds were still strong but not as harsh as they had been during the night. We took an early morning walk in an eerily quiet village. Our usual Sunday market had been cancelled. There was little sign of life.
At some stage during the night we had lost electricity, I have no idea when, but now all had been restored. There was also some deafeningly loud thunder which woke us abruptly and we became aware that Evie, our Jack Russell had snuggled up under the duvet beside us. Listening to the local news over breakfast, we learnt that some 140,000 homes were still without power, our region taking the brunt of the storm.
We had lost one tree, but nothing catastrophic, truthfully speaking it was already dead, a spindly thing in a corner that we had been wondering how we could get to in order to take it down. It seems nature did this for us, albeit causing a little chaos in the process but no real harm done, just plenty of work for Roddy and the chainsaw this coming week.
The garden looks like a bomb site, their is debris everywhere, huge branches ripped from trees lay strewn across the lawn. Many persimmons which were slowly ripening are now scattered across the chicken garden, too hard for them to enjoy and too early for us to take them indoors. Ironically, the autumn fruiting raspberries were unscathed and I stood and surveyed the mass of debris all around me silently feasting on these utterly delicious small red fruits, soft and rain sodden they were none the less sweet and perfect and eating them on this damp chilly morning seemed somewhat surreal.
However having established that no real harm had been done I decided it was most definitely a day for soup. It’s one of the things I really welcome in autumn, homemade and nutritious; butternut squash, tomato, thick vegetable, carrot and ginger, the choice is endless and it becomes a real lunchtime staple in our house. Having hastily gathered the last of the years tomatoes yesterday before Amelie took them from us, we knew that today definitely called for tomato soup. Some people think soups sound complicated to make, but trust me they couldn’t be easier. At this time of year we also start to relish our Sunday roasts once again. It is always too hot in the summer to have the oven pounding away for hours and so this weekend ritual is now reserved just for the cooler months. But it also goes hand in hand with soup season. A discarded chicken carcass makes the most perfect stock, the best base for any soup.
For our tomato soup we simply sauté an onion and three or four cloves of garlic in some olive oil.
Add around 1kg (2.2lbs) of tomatoes, chopped into large chunks.
Add a pint of stock, we like to use homemade chicken stock, but you can use vegetable stock as well.
Add half a cup of white wine and season with salt and pepper.
Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for half an hour.
Blitz in either a blender or with a hand blender and serve.
I serve this with a French baguette or if I have the time, as I did this morning, I’ll make a homemade focaccia, with fresh rosemary from the garden, leaving it to rise in the warm kitchen for a couple of hours.
Hmmm, utterly delicious and incredibly simple.
Nutritious and warming; the perfect autumn lunch.