Sugar-Free-Sketching Day 6: (No) Cabbage Borscht & Soda Bread

Borscht and soda bread. Comfort food at its best…

Sugar-Free Sketching, watercolour by Róisín Curé

Boo-hoo! I am feeling rather sorry for myself today. For the last few years the middle finger on my right hand was refusing to open when my hand was closed. This apparently is called Trigger Finger. It was getting worse, and my doctor recommended an injection of cortisone. He didn’t mention how painful the injection into the tendon on your hand is. Ouch! Afterwards I was in dire need of comfort food and all I could think of was making a delicious pot of cabbage borscht. I made it last week and it was so amazing. I wanted fresh brown soda bread to dunk in it but the local shop didn’t have any – I would have to make it as well as the soup. Bah!

When I got back I found all the cabbage had been eaten – which was disappointing because it’s not borscht without cabbage, is it? Unless you have beetroot, which I certainly did not. My finger made it difficult for me to grip things so Marcel chopped the vegetables while I stirred the flour and so on for the brown bread. Then I put the bread in the oven, made the soup and…drew it. You’ll see that the drawing is pretty wobbly with my numb and tingling middle finger. It’s still very uncomfortable!

Here are the recipes for both!

Brown Soda Bread

Preheat oven to about 190 degrees C.
In a big bowl mix 2 cups of coarse brown flour (I used self-raising but you don’t have to) with 1 cup of plain flour. Add 1 tsp salt, 1 tsblsp sugar, 1 tsp bread soda and mix the lot really well. Add about two cups buttermilk bit by bit until it’s a soft dough. Then add 25g – about 2 tblsp – melted butter. Mix well, then put in a dish with a lid (I use stoneware), make a deep cross in the top and bake with a lid for 40 minutes then take the lid off and bake for another 20 minutes. (You can use tinfoil as the lid too.) Turn out onto a rack and cool before cutting.

Cabbage Borscht

In a big cast iron pot gently fry chopped onions in butter. Add chicken wings (I always use free-range) and fry well. You don’t need chicken pieces if you are using a good chicken stock, and you can use beef too. Add chopped cabbage, chopped peeled potatoes and celery. Add about 1 tsp paprika and 1 tsp caraway seeds. Stir well, fry a bit, then add a can of tomatoes and/or tomato purée and lots of chicken stock, and don’t forget salt. Add lots of chopped parsley. Let it all cook for a bit and when the potatoes are soft you’re good to go. You can add carrots, turnip or whatever else you fancy. Some like to blend it but I like to taste all the different things.

Curiouser and curiouser

I always bring my sketching stuff with me when I go somewhere but the water pot I have was too big for my handbag.
“Excuse me,” said one of the receptionists at the clinic, “but I’m very curious – what is that pot for?”
I explained, and soon I was telling her and her colleague all about life as an urban sketcher. Then I went into have the procedure done, and the same thing happened with the nurses – one was curious about the pot. This time we looked at the sketches in the two little books that I had with me. They were delighted with the concept of sketching any old where and I MAY have convinced one of them to give it a go – she’s already familiar with acrylics so she’s halfway there.

That doctor and his syringe – he did one of those theatrical things (which they probably all do for safety) where you squirt a jet of fluid from the syringe into the air to make sure – I presume – there are no air bubbles there. So now all I have to do is wait a week and then the tendons in my finger will be all back to normal.

And I will buy cabbage – and maybe some beetroot!

Meanwhile…I have a brave son. Paddy is brave – and determined. He decided that he and his friend Mattie, who is also brave (braver because he does not have the natural insulation that Paddy has), would swim off the pier at Killeenaran over the weekend. Trouble is, it’s April (the sea is still extremely cold) and high tide was at half nine in the evening so it was nearly dark when they went down to jump off the pier.

Paddy & Mattie swimming, watercolour by Róisín Curé

They stood at the water’s edge and did star jumps to try to keep warm and to motivate each other. I told them to keep still while I sketched them. Then they flung off their clothes and dived in. They crowed about the size and toughness of their balls (at least, Mattie did – it’s not really Paddy’s style). I was extremely impressed. Then they got into the car, shivered like I don’t know what and jacked up the heat to its highest setting. Soon they were in Mattie’s house, having lemon meringue pie, apple pie with creme anglaise and ice cream (which I resisted, see theme of blog). They soon recovered.

Brave boys. I bet a bowl of borscht would have done the trick just as well.

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