I don’t think there’s any recipe I’ve made so far that’s as near and dear to my heart as this one is as it’s my late grandfather’s pépé Charles’ soup recipe. Whenever we would go up to him on a Sunday, he’d always have this soup ready for us and the whole house would smell of the soup whenever you walked through the door. When I was about 12 years old I once asked him to write me his recipe, and it’s one of the very few family recipes that I have unfortunately, and I really wish I had asked all of my grandparents for some more recipes when I had the chance, but being a 12 year old you don’t really think about those kinds of things jus yet of course. The recipe he gave me was somewhat vague though, some ingredients didn’t have any quantities and he didn’t really write down how he cooked it either so it was a bit of a family effort trying to put the pieces together.
My brother had made the soup twice before as well so he was able to tell me what way he did it, and I texted my mom a couple of times for some help too. I wouldn’t say that it’s bang on the same recipe just yet, it’ll take some tweaking.. and more importantly it could use with a family tasting so I’ll be putting on a big pot of this soup next time I fly out to Belgium so that all my cousins, aunties and uncles can have a taste too. That being said it is really close to the real thing for sure, as I was cooking it the entire house started to smell just like my grandfather’s house would on those Sunday afternoons, and although I only vaguely remembered the flavours, the second I put a spoonful in my mouth I was catapulted back into my childhood and I remembered exactly what it tasted like, it’s funny how food can do that, isn’t it? Do let me know in the comments below if you have any childhood memories of a special recipe your grandparents made, and whether or not you were lucky enough to have the recipe written down for you to pass on to your children. I honestly can not wait to give the final recipe back to my mom so she can make it for my little niece and nephew whenever they come over for a visit (when they’re a bit older of course, the youngest one is only a few months old).
Serves: 10 people
- 2l water
- 100g celery
- 100g soup vegetables (or a mix of carrots, leek, parsley
- 1 large onion
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 teaspoons of herbes de Provençe
- 4 twigs of fresh thyme
- 100g vermicelli (or the thinnest spaghetti you can find)
- 1,2kg good quality peeled plum tomato in tin
- 200g tomato paste
- 4 cubes of beef stock
- 750g – 1kg beef mince
- 1 potato
- pepper & salt
Note: using tomato in soup can cause it to taste acidic, depending on the brand you use. If your soup has that taste, add a bit of baking soda to balance it out
Chop up the onion and to the same for your soup vegetables in case you are making the mix yourself. Keep in mind this soup won’t be mixed so don’t slice the vegetables up too big.
Heat up butter in a deep pot and fry the onions. Add soup vegetables, fry for a few minutes, then add water, stock cubes, potato, herbs, peeled tomato and tomato paste. Cook until the tomatoes have fallen apart, or give them a helping hand by squashing them against the side of the pot with a big spoon. It’ll probably take about 30 minutes for this soup to be ready. Take out the thyme twigs and potato, the thyme leaves will have fallen off by now and you don’t want anyone to end up with a piece of twig on their plate! We’re taking the potato out as well as we’re not mixing the soup and don’t want pieces of potato on our plate. You can leave the bay leaves in, just make sure people don’t actually eat them but take them out if it’s in their plate.
If the mince is seasoned already: roll up into little meatballs, if not: season first with pepper, salt and some more herbes de Provençe (another 3 teaspoons should do it). Place in the soup to cook for 10 minutes, add the vermicelli as well according to instructions on the package (mine said it needed 4 minutes).