Tomato and rice soup: yes, it might not make you open up like a freshly steamed mussel through excitement, but by god it’ll serve you well if you’re after a quick and easy dinner. Plus this recipe makes enough for six bowls. So don’t be disappointed by a soup recipe and instead give it a go!
You know what is disappointing? We had plans this morning to get up early and switch all the branding on the site away from SW and over to Herbalife. We planned to have photos of us looking flabbergasted by their miracle products and a wee video introducing ourselves as Herbalife’s Number ONE Sellers. But then, with all the dilatoriness you’ve come to expect from your favourite Northern fat bastards, we slept in. I like to think you lot know there’s more chance of me eschewing cock for life and becoming a full vagitarian than there is us becoming MLM salesfuckers, so it probably wouldn’t have worked anyway.
Anyway, life played a little April fool trick on me – I thought I’d published the next blog entry in the middle of the week and have been sulking because I received no comments on it, only to find this morning that it hasn’t appeared and for good measure, has completely disappeared. Great! Imagine my pleasure! I’ll rattle it out again – I’ve got two hours before Paul finally stops snoring like a shot elephant and gets himself up and out of bed to have a pop at me for not waking him up. Wiring him to the mains wouldn’t wake him up, but that’s entirely beside the point. Let’s slip back to France then, and, because I’ve got a stack of holidays to write up, it’s the penultimate part…
Now, when you last joined us, we were retiring to bed full of liquor and the French night air. We’d enjoyed a full day of gallivanting and drinking and our heads were a little tender in the morning. I showered, somewhat gingerly, barely keeping down yesterday’s Castrol cocktail. I was doing well until I dropped the sponge and bent over to pick it up. Honestly, you’ve never lived until you’ve caught a haunting glimpse of your own bumhole reflected back at you from all conceivable angles thanks to an entirely mirrored bathroom – it felt like I’d fallen into the Sarlacc pit from Return of the Jedi. I stumbled out, gagging, only to be met with Paul’s beaming face.
What activity had he managed to find for us whilst I was being Crying-Gaming in the shower? What would really invigorate my dulled senses and quell that nauseous feeling in my belly? Ah yes: a trip into the sewers of Paris. Don’t get me wrong – I love learning about infrastructure and finding out how a city runs, but goodness me: my hanging head combined with my submechanophobia did not make me especially keen. Paul pressed the issue though and I just can’t say no to his eager moon face. (Could you? If it was me, could you do it?)
Submechanophobia? Yes: it’s a real thing! I’m creeped out by machinery underwater, anything man-made. I’m not one of these roaring idiots who scream and shout, I can crack on with it, but the idea of submerged pipes and drains and dams just give me the willies, and not in the conventional excellent way. Blame my dad: we grew up surrounded by wells and culverts and reservoirs and weirs and to keep us away from them he would tell lurid tales of people being sucked into pipes and drowned in weirs. Worked for me, though I was brave enough to approach a well when I threw my sister’s Culture Club CDs down there because she wouldn’t stop playing Karma Chameleon. Perhaps I need to convince you why underwater pipes are scary…take a look at this:
See? Not just me being a drama queen!
The entrance to the sewers was a mere 30 minute walk away, and, needing some fresh air and a good crêpe (thanks to the surprisingly hairy guys at Iolando at the Quai Branly for their ham and cheese special) (why does everything I write sound like a sexy Craigslist advert?) we ambled out.
I took a picture of the Statue of Liberty and sent it over to El Ehma, a friend from work, and told her we’d been diverted to New York. Naturally, she believed us, although there’s very little sport in getting her to believe anything, because she’s so sweet and trusting. I could tell her they’ve outlawed breathing and her lips would turn blue before her mind turned over. Although, mind, she still wins on the pranks stakes for getting me to call the Mr Kipling factory and ask to speak to the boss himself. Pfft.
We arrived at the Musée des Égouts de Paris in good time, despite having to stop for another fifteen minutes whilst Paul availed himself of the nearby automatic toilet facilities again. He at least had the humour to come out and cry that he had ‘sent a fresh one into the sewers’ and that we ought to keep an eye out for it. If only I’d known, I would have told him to stick a flag in it like they do with fancy burgers. I took the opportunity to find a geocache whilst Paul left his mark and I had no trouble at all locating geocache GC2MJDY.
I signed the log just as Paul bid goodbye to his own, and we were on our way.
We paid a very modest fee to the chap sitting in the booth in the middle of the street and descended the stairs into the sewers.
Well, fuck me. I know this is going to be blindingly obvious because it’s a sewer but the smell. I, having not done any research beforehand, expected a sanitised little museum with lots of charming photos and info boards. None of that. It’s literally the sewer with a river of Paris’ finest stools, piss, toilet roll and condoms floating by like the world’s worst episode of The Generation Game. You know that feeling when you go for a poo and someone’s used the cubicle before you and you walk into a mist of shitgas, knocking you back? Imagine that, but multiplied by 10.
You can almost smell it.
That said, it only took five minutes for the tissue inside my nose to necrotise and then we were good to go. And, do you know, it was really bloody interesting! We walked away from the tour guide, not least because he was bellowing in French and I couldn’t understand what he was going on about – lots of murder, apparently – and we explored for ourselves. This isn’t somewhere to take the kids – lots of creepy machinery, open running water, shit all over the place (though you were never touching it). I felt like Thénardier and almost burst into song, although the effect would have been lost over the sound of effluence farting and sloshing about.
Mind, it was good to see Enya doing her bit for faecal disposal.
Two interesting facts for you, though. The sewers of Paris all have charming little street signs on that mirror the roads above so, in theory, you could cheerfully make your way from one side of the city to the other underground, dealing with logs and detritus rather than tourists and looky-looky-men. I’m genuinely not sure which I’d prefer. Secondly, they have a surprisingly old-fashioned way of cleaning their sewers – they use a big black ball almost exactly the same width as the tunnel and send it on its merry way, pushed along by the water building up behind it and sloughing all the stank from the walls of the sewer. They ought to call the ball ‘Scan Bran’, given they do exactly the same thing. I posed for a comedy photo bending over in front of the giant black ball and was roundly tutted at by the tour group which had caught up with us. Ah well.
I’ve hidden the quote for this photo in white text because honestly, I’m ashamed to put it. The caption is: “The view from 10″ into my rectum, if I’m lucky”
I know I’m awful.
Fancy a wander?
We made our way to the exit and Paul looked at his watch with concern. Zut alors! We had a lunch reservation over the other side of the river and we’d never be able to make it, so into another Uber we went. Here’s the thing: we hadn’t quite thought out our day, because going straight to lunch in a nice restaurant after spending an hour floating about in an active sewer probably doesn’t make a nice experience for anyone near us. You know what makes it worse? We were eating here:
Yep – a restaurant entirely in the dark. What happens when you can’t see? Your other senses increase in power. I’m not sure what the French is for ‘goodness, has someone just shat in the bread basket‘ and I don’t want to know. We did try to hurriedly daub ourselves in Tom Ford but meh, there’s only so much you can do, right?
Let me explain how this works – you go in and you’re not given a menu, but rather, you have a chat with the hostess about the types of food you like (meat), what you dislike (fish), what you’re allergic to (pineapple) and what drinks you want. The chef then builds your meals to suit your tastes but you do not know what you’re going to get. It’s then time to eat – your waiter (who is completely blind) comes to get you, you form a human conga chain and into the pitch black you go. You are led to your table and told where your glass is, where your plate is, your cutlery, all at times on a clock – so the wine is at your ten o’clock, forks at 4, and so on. It is an amazingly bewildering experience – at once disorientating and exciting. There’s not a speck of light to be seen – no fire exit signs, no mobiles lighting up (you have to leave those in a locker) – all you have to look at is the colourful swirls that your eyes mark as they try and adjust.
It’s amazing how quick you get used to it though. I was drinking a cocktail and buttering bread like an old hand and everything was going smashing until a voice seemingly inside my ear told me my starter had arrived. I was a moment away from an especially ladylike shriek. Our starters were placed in front of us – an apple, goat cheese and beetroot salad – and we gamely set about trying to eat. Paul gave up trying to use his cutlery after about a minute and just used his fingers like the Peterborian sloth that he is. I pressed on, although it took me four minutes before I realised I was holding my fork the wrong way and all the food was simply tumbling away from me.
As we stumbled our way through our starter the restuarant began to fill up – a relief if only to provide some background noise. When you can’t see and there’s hardly any sound, you start to wonder if you’re simply on a prank TV show and the walls are going to fall down, revealing yourself with beetroot all over your face to a clapping audience. Two lovely Irish ladies joined our corner table and were kind enough not to mention the stench. We don’t normally like to talk whilst we eat because we’re fat and frightened we’ll miss something but actually, the lack of lighting removed any social anxieties and we chatted away like old friends. It was brilliant fun! The dessert was gingerbread pudding and ice cream, although by the time I’d managed to chase my ice-cream around the plate and onto the fork it was merely warm cream.
I took a picture of our dinner so you can see what you get:
The time came to leave, with our waiter gently touching us on the shoulder and unusually not adding, ‘please, Sir, leave some for the others’. I’m not used to such hospitality! We stood up to leave and I became acutely aware of a problem – we’d been put into a corner which was fine when the restuarant was empty, but leaving required squeezing past people in the dark and moving furniture. How embarrassing. Simply leaving the place became a dramatic affair – I shunted someone into their starter, the waiter collided with a table edge that he wasn’t expecting to ‘be there’ and I think Paul might have accidentally impregnated someone. There was a lot of grunting, dissatisfied sighing and profuse apologising, rather like my college years.
Before we left we were shown what we had actually been given and it was genuinely surprising – I was so sure, for example, that I’d had apple pie, but no, it was gingerbread. Paul thought he’d had steak but it had been lamb. I thought I’d received a handjob but it turned out it was just the waiter straightening out the napkin on my lap.
We would heartily recommend.
Now, I’m faced with a bit of a dilemma here. I could prattle on for another 1000 words or so about what we did next, or I could get to the tomato and rice soup and wrap up Paris with one last entry. You know, because I envisage you sat at home yawning your way through the posts, I’ll do exactly that. I know you ladies like length but what’s length without something tasty at the end of it? Let’s get to the soup.
to make tomato and rice soup, you’ll need:
- one lovely large white onion, roughly chopped
- three celery stalks, chopped
- 3 small carrots, chopped (try and cut everything the same size – nice small chunks)
- good salt and pepper
- 1/2 tsp of chilli flakes (leave it out if you’ve got a sensitive nipsy)
- 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
- 1.5 litres (yes, that’s right) of good chicken or vegetable stock
- 150g of brown rice (white is fine if you only have that, we used arborio rice)
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- 100g of spinach leaves
Optional: if you’ve got a proper Parmesan with a hard rind, feel free to cut off the rind and chuck it in whilst everything simmers. You’ll fish it out after, but it just imparts a nice creaminess to the soup. Also, if you can’t be arsed chopping veg, you can make this so much quicker by buying a bag of soffritto from Waitrose – it’s a quid and consists of perfectly chopped onion, celery and carrots. Lifesaver! Also good if you’re a clumsy bugger like me when it comes to chopping.
to make tomato and rice soup, you should:
- with a few sprays of oil (half a syn, divide between six if you’re that arse) slowly sweat off your carrot, onion and celery until they soften
- season with salt, pepper and chilli flakes
- add the stock, puree, Worcestershire sauce, chopped tomatoes, bay leaves and rice
- leave to simmer for about 30 minutes – you want the rice softened and some of the liquid bubbled off
- chuck in your rind if you’re using it whilst it simmers
- you can leave it to bubble for longer if you like a thicker soup
- when ready to serve, remove the rind and bay leaves, stir in the spinach and enjoy!
You might be thinking you ought to stop there and not bother with the breadcrumbs, but please: spend a syn or two and make them. It takes no time at all, they keep well in the fridge and they just add a little extra into the soup. Why not make your dinners the very best they can be?
to make basil, garlic and cheese breadcrumbs, you’ll need:
- a good handful of basil leaves
- 30g of parmesan (1 x HEA) (but remember this serves six, so well, up to you how you do it) – grated finely – use a microplane grater when it comes to hard cheese, makes life so much easier and they’re so cheap!
- 1 wholemeal bun (1 x HEB) (see above)
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove
to make basil, garlic and cheese breadcrumbs, you should:
- blitz together everything above into a fine sand
- put on an oven tray and cook in the oven on a medium heat until they’re nice and toasty
- sprinkle onto your soup!
If you don’t want to dick about getting your food processor out, and who would, you could just use the tiny wee chopper that we occasionally dig out for this purpose! You don’t need to spend money on anything expensive, this will do the job nicely!
Want more recipes? Vegetarian? Soup? Click and enjoy!