Soup Season?

Well I hope that sundrenched stretch wasn’t summer. It was glorious, hot, and beautiful — what a tease. I’m sitting inside with the rain lashing the windows under our first precipitation since Environment Canada’s icons changed from snowflakes to water-drops; I actually lit a fire today to ward off the chill and damp.

Nothing outside is tarped — I grew complacent by our complete lack of rain, and so construction projects are drenched, cushions are sopping on their benches, and a blender sits idle on a stump near an extension cord.

I watch from the window, stunned to inaction.

On coastal visits I remember that it’s easy to go out and do whatever one wants to in the rain — you just get wet. But after such a long dry spell, I have forgotten that here, so I hunker down inside. Of course, it’s never just the rain; it’s the wind as well. But still, Vancouver Islanders would laugh at me.

Don’t get me wrong, I know the rain is great for the gardens, for the forest fires (or lack thereof), and for the forests themselves. While I chomp-at-the-bit for the projects that I’m not continuing outside there are more than enough inside activities to catch up on, those that have taken a backseat to gardening and building. Good heavens, I could read, or write, or play music — if only I could stop lamenting my confinement.

Putting the kettle on is always a good start, and after coming in from animal-related chores feeling damp and cool, I decided I needed a hot lunch — a first since the greenhouse started producing greens. No smoothie and salad today.

Luckily, I just thawed a bag of green-curry-paste cubes that were hidden away in the bottom of the freezer. I retrieved them with a guilty compulsion to be rid of the evidence that I hadn’t finished last year’s supply before the fresh cilantro became ready again.

I decided to be liberal with it and tossed two whole cubes — quite a punch of flavour — into a saucepan with a little oil. I fried them for a minute or two before adding hot water, miso, and rice noodles. I topped the whole thing off with a massive handful of chopped fresh cilantro and chives, and voilà: almost-instant Thai noodle soup. It’s almost as good as those Thai kitchen packets, and fills a bigger bowl.

The nice thing about a soup like this is that it combines the fresh taste of spring greens — especially for those of who love cilantro — with a bit of heat from the chilies, and of course the physical warmth of the broth. It warms and comforts without feeling heavy. I am in no mood for hearty root vegetable soups or stews this time of year.

And now the rain has ceased and the sun is considering coming out. Time to get back outside.

Agnes’s Thai Green Curry Paste

This is the answer my friend Agnes gave when I wondered aloud what to do with all my cilantro. Play with the herb ratios depending on what you have available and according to your taste. Freeze the paste in ice cubes for easy access later on.


• 1 stalk lemongrass, minced or 3 Tbsp. prepared frozen or bottled lemongrass

• 1-3 green chilies, sliced (Thai green chilies or jalapeno)

• 1 shallot, sliced, or 4 Tbsp. minced purple onion

• 4-5 cloves garlic • 1 thumb-size piece of galangal or ginger, thinly sliced

• 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves & stems

• 1/2 cup fresh basil

• 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

• 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper

• 1/2 tsp. ground coriander

• 3 Tbsp. fish sauce (Vegetarians: substitute 1 Tbsp. soy sauce)

• 1 tsp. shrimp paste (Vegetarians: substitute 1/2 tsp. salt)

• 2 Tbsp. lime juice

• 1 tsp. brown sugar

• 3-4 Tbsp. coconut milk (enough to blend ingredients together)


• Place all ingredients in a food processor, chopper, or blender. Process well. Taste-test it for salt and spice. If too salty, add a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon juice. Add more chili for heat. Your curry paste is now ready to be used.

• You can bottle up any leftovers and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

• No electricity? Use a mortar and pestle. Pound all dry herbs and spices together to form a paste, then gradually add the wet ingredients, stirring until smooth. Alternatively chop and smear with a sharp knife.

Cooking Tips

• Heat a wok or large frying pan or pot over medium-high heat. Add 2-3 Tbsp. oil and swirl around, then add the green curry paste. Stir-fry until fragrant (1 minute), and then add 1-cup stock plus your curry ingredients (meat, seafood, or tofu/wheat gluten, plus vegetables). Simmer until ingredients are cooked, gradually adding 1/2 to 1 can coconut milk until you’re happy with the taste/thickness/amount of sauce.

• As you’re cooking, you can also add 2-3 kaffir lime leaves (left whole) as well as any leftover lemongrass stalk pieces for even more flavor.

• Add more fish or soy sauce if not salty enough, or some fresh-cut Thai red chilies if not spicy enough (or dried crushed chili). If too spicy, add more coconut milk. If too salty or sweet, add a squeeze of lime juice. If too sour, add a touch more sugar. Finish your curry by sprinkling over generous amounts of fresh basil or cilantro.

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