Ash Wednesday

Today’s the day I go to Mass and get a big greasy black ash mark put on my forehead by someone’s blackened thumb.

The holy ashes, symbol of penitence and penance, of mortality and redemption, of our communion in Jesus.

I love this season in the Church’s year, and I love the cooler mornings and nights too, parentheses around sparkling blue and flame-red autumn days.

No meat today. Lunch is simple; bread and butter, a bit of cheese, a cup of tea. Dinner will be salmon baked in the oven, which sounds a bit extravagant for Ash Wednesday I know, but it’s all I had in the freezer apart from iceblocks, some chicken breasts, and a bunch of dried-up curry leaves in a plastic bag which have been in there for about a year.

I’m re-reading the Lenten article I wrote for CathFamily’s e-magazine entitled Fasting before Feasting. And I’m thinking of making my first batch of sweet potato and pumpkin soup for autumn.

Want my recipe? It’s very simple, and I’m not fussy with quantities. It all turns out fine and if there is too much left over it keeps and freezes really well.

Sweet Potato and Butternut Pumpkin Soup

You need:

Olive oil

A couple of chopped sweet potatoes

About half a chopped up butternut pumpkin (some people keep the skin on, I’m yet to try that)

1 large onion

3 dried bay leaves

2 or three cloves of garlic, unpeeled

1 teaspoon of crushed ginger

Enough chicken stock to cover your vegetables in the pot, maybe 4 or 5 cups (I use liquid stock from the supermarket)

salt and pepper

Method: Place the chopped vegetables, bay leaves, ginger and garlic cloves into a large, deep oven pan. You want it big enough so there’s one layer of vegetables. Lightly drizzle the whole lot with olive oil, give it a toss and place it into a hot (200 degrees Celsius) oven for about 20 mins or until the vegetables are soft and slightly caramelised underneath where they touch the pan.

Remove pan from the oven, squeeze out the garlic cloves from their skins. Bin the garlic skins and the bay leaves. Transfer your lovely veges into a large pot on the stove (I use a big stockpot). Add the chicken stock, salt, and pepper, and bring to boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes then turn off the heat and let it cool a bit. Blend (I use a stick blender).

Serve with a spoon of sour cream and some crusty bread.

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