by Soup Dragon
At something like an occupation or a picket line, hot food works wonders for morale. The problem is, they usually take place in locations that are a bit short of cooking facilities, but with a bit of planning, it’s actually quite easy to arrange a supply of home-made food. Most people will have all of the necessary equipment sitting around at home anyway, and since you can make a huge pot of soup for less than £5, it works out a lot cheaper than buying everyone a takeaway.
I’ve included recipes for two variations on lentil soup, because it’s very straightforward, the ingredients are cheap, and it doesn’t contain anything which people are likely to be allergic to. In general, soup is a good choice because you only need a mug or a disposable cup to drink it out of, so you don’t have to worry about finding cutlery.
Remember, if you’re planning to take food (or any other supplies) to a picket or occupation, it’s often a good idea to get in touch with them first. Someone else might already have offered to bring them dinner, or maybe they’re up to their eyes in biscuits, but could really use some more cups. Surprises are fun, but they aren’t always useful.
A really big soup pot with a lid
Stick blender or potato masher
Blankets or clean clothes for insulation
A bag large enough to hold both
Paper or polystyrene cups
Basic Lentil Soup
A vegetarian version of Mammy Soup Dragon’s old recipe. Makes about 6-7 litres of soup.
500-600g of red lentils
2kg of carrots
Vegetable stock powder/cubes (dairy and gluten free if possible)
2 tbsp dried parsley
Salt and pepper
Rinse the lentils and put them in the pot and add water so that the lentils are covered in about 10cm of water. Start bringing the water to the boil – this will take a while because of the quantities involved.
Chop the onions and add them to the pot.
Peel and chop the carrots, throwing them into the pot as you go. This may take a while, so find some comrades to help you if you can.
Add sufficient stock for the volume of soup (this will vary according to the type you’re using).
Stir occasionally to stop anything from sticking to the bottom of the pot. The lentils will absorb water as they cook, so you may need to add more.
When the carrots are soft, blend the soup until it is smooth. If you don’t have a blender, you could mash it instead.
Add the parsley, salt and pepper.
Spicy Tomato Lentil Soup
This one’s a bit more complicated, and it could be expensive if you don’t already have a well-stocked spice rack. Makes 5-6 litres of soup.
5/6 cloves of garlic
3 tins of chopped tomatoes
Up to 1kg of carrots
3 cups lentils
Half a tube of tomato puree
About 1 tsp each of chilli powder, coriander, cumin, ginger & smoked paprika (or substitute other spices, depending on your own taste and what’s available)
1 tbsp parsley
Salt and pepper
Chop the onions and garlic. Fry the onions over a low heat in a generous amount of oil until they’re almost translucent, then add the garlic, and when that’s cooked, add the spices.
Add the tomatoes to the pot, and give them a bit of a mash. You don’t want a completely smooth texture, just a smaller tomato chunks.
Rinse the lentils and throw them into the pot. Top it up with water, add the stock and tomato puree, the leave it to simmer.
Peel and chop the carrots, and add those.
Cook until the carrots and lentils are soft.
Add parsley, salt, pepper, and maybe a bit more of some of the spices.
Transporting Hot Food:
It takes a long time for a large volume of soup to go cold, but there are a few basic principles you can apply to maximise the length of time it stays really hot, and to make it easier to transport.
Use something to hold the lid in place on top of the pot. The contents will slosh around and knock the lid off if you don’t.
This can be achieved with string, or with with a folded-up tea towel wrapped around the handles.
You need to insulate the bag you’re carrying your food in, so that there is padding around the pot on every side. This keeps the heat in, and it also means that you don’t burn your legs when the bag bounces off them.
Make sure the top of the pot is well covered. This is for camouflage as well as insulation, because some bus drivers don’t like letting people on with hot food, so this disguises what you’re carrying.
If it’s not going to be eaten immediately when you reach your destination, throw a few extra blankets or coats over the top of your insulated bag for good measure.
This method will keep your food properly piping hot for at least 2 1/2 hours. It probably lasts even longer, but I’ve never had any reason to test it beyond that point.