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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A soup to serve your best friends

I believe I have to be faithful to you, dear readers. I could just give you a recipe for fresh spinach and chutney dressing which I came across and is making me drool. But what's the point of that? Being winter we don't have fresh spinach. Or really good juicy mangoes to make the chutney. The sort that are warm and squishy and plump. Golden orangy red. Juice running down your chin as you bite into the succulent flesh. Alright, alright, I'll stop. We don't need this tastebud titillation. We need recipes for food that is in abundance. Possibly dull but plentiful. I dragged out my enormous cooking folder from its spot under the window and had a quick trawl. At the moment it is serving its purpose as a wind break more than a book. It is the only large book in my apartment that can be wedged under the floor boards and cut down the wind chill factor. A chill that is wreaking havoc with my room-temperature eggs and softened butter. Actually, room temperature is a strange anomaly here. How do you really judge it? Especially in a city that has winter room temperatures of either about 25 degrees Celsius, or minus 5, depending on the state of your local council's finances. And this is where the pen is mightier than the keyboard. Because let's face it, unless you get very playful with your fonts, page upon page of computer printouts of recipes would probably make your eyes glaze over. My folder contains recipes written on every conceivable piece of paper: envelopes, paper napkins, the backs of particularly steep Russian phone bills. And my favorites are those written on my yellow legal notepaper. There I was, back in the dark days of the 80s, supposedly delving into the mysteries of torts and contracts, and instead all my notes say are tortes and pecans, clever quiches, the best way to preserve peaches. Much more useful, if you ask me. But then I'm not a lawyer. The recipe I was looking for dated from that era. I knew it was on yellow paper and I knew it was in the vegetable section. A greatly expanded section since I gave meat the boot. (Doesn't come anywhere close to the quantity of dessert recipes, but still.) Here it is. And it does not make make me drool. Olive soup. But I have to publish it because I have two large jars of olives in my fridge that are hurtling towards their expiry date. And what do you do with almost two kilos of olives, apart from inviting 50 hungry friends over and not giving them anything else to eat? I could pickle them in my Arles-style celery, garlic and lemon dish, but the celery is a little woody at this time of the year, so there is nothing to do but turn them into soup. Rich mushy soup. You need to serve it with fresh crusty bread because it can be salty. Mine was, made my mouth pucker up pretty well I can tell you. This dish serves four. I will be doubling the ingredients and trying to palm it off to my friends, few of whom like olives, none of whom will like this soup. But that's what friendship is all about -- testing the limits of love as far as it goes. Olive Soup with Garlic Croutons 1 1/2 cups chopped olives 2 cloves garlic 3 cups rich chicken stock 1 cup heavy cream Salt and pepper Dill for garnish Simplicity in itself, just make sure the soup never comes to a boil. Rinse the chopped olives in water to remove the excess salt. In a saucepan heat the chicken stock, peeled but not chopped garlic cloves. Keep it simmering-- barely a bubble winking the surface -- add the olives, stir well and cook for around 15 minutes. Remove the cloves of garlic, add the cream and salt and pepper. Stir well. Serve warm with fresh dill. Garlic Croutons 12 small slices of white bread 2 cloves garlic 2 tablespoons butter Crush the garlic and stir into the softened butter. If you have a microwave, melt them together for about 20 seconds. Brush both sides of the bread with the garlic butter and cook in the oven until crisp. Serve the soup in deep bowls, with three small slices of garlic in the bottom. The garlic will infuse the soup without overpowering the olive flavor. And if that won't tempt you, here is the marinated Arles olives recipe. Back by popular demand. Good luck finding juicy celery. It is not the season for it. These olives keep for weeks in the fridge, but watch the temperature. I made a batch one morning last week, put them in the bottom of fridge and by evening was feeling peckish. But I had miscalculated. I dragged out the bowl of what I thought was going to be tasty zakusky, and found one solid frozen lump. I don't have a clue about physics or chemistry, but something tells me freezing and defrosting of food is not going to yield a good or safe product. Marinated Arles Olives 2 cups unripe green olives 4 cloves garlic 1 lemon, juice and skin 1 large onion 2 cups celery, plus leaves Good olive oil Wash the olives if they have been preserved in brine, or drain them if they are stored in olive oil. Crush the garlic, slice the onion finely, peel the lemon and then cut up the flesh into small pieces -- and make sure you don't lose too much juice. You will need to add most of the zest of the lemon as well. Cut the celery finely and tear up the leaves. Pour the olives into a clean glass jar, add the rest of the ingredients and top with enough olive oil to just cover. Stir well, cover, store in the fridge. The flavor is best after a week.