Christmas stories 7: Midnight soup

I’m sharing again a series of family stories to do with Christmas, this must be about one of the most delicious aspects of the festivities:

My aunty’s midnight soup which we traditionally eat on Christmas Eve is unctuous and lovely, thick, rich, and delicious;  it’s a beef soup with baby onions, button mushrooms, sherry, port, brandy and I always add dried fruit such as prunes or apricots to contrast with the richness of the added cream. It’s spiced with paprika, a little chilli, and warm Christmas spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice. It’s thick and dark and smooth and warm and lovely.

Midnight Soup (the traditional aunty’s recipe)

  • 1 lb steak
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 4 onions
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 pints stock
  • 1 tbsp chilli sauce
  • ¼ tsp ground pepper
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp pickled silverskin onions
  • 10 oz grapes
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 6 tbsp cream
  • 8 oz mushrooms
  • 1 liqueur glass brandy
  • 1 tumbler glass port
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 level tsp paprika
  1. Cut meat into small cubes. Heat oil and fry meat until lightly brown.  Peel and dice onions and fry lightly with meat at low temperature.
  2. Stir in tomato puree.  Add stock, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
  3. Add chilli sauce, pepper, cayenne pepper, and silverskin onions.  Stir well.
  4. Slice mushrooms and add to pan.  Wash grapes, slice and add to pan.  Bring to the boil.  Mix flour with cream and add to soup.
  5. Add brandy and port, salt and paprika before serving.

My additions

I add orange zest and mixed spice for a really Christmassy feel; if we don’t have brandy, I add extra port… My aunty didn’t specify how much a liqueur glass or a tumbler should hold, so be generous! I used to use rinsed silverskin onions, but now I use small raw pickling onions, skinned, topped and tailed, and cut the grapes in half. I add the mushrooms just before serving and the year I used the little Japanese shiitake, I particularly wanted them to hold their shape. I serve it with crusty bread and extra cream.

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