A Strong Brown God (And Soup)

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I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable, Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier; Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce; Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges. The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable. Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.

- TS Eliot; from "Dry Salvages"; Four Quartets.*

The flood season has begun, in other words. Just south of the Scottish border, a policeman is currently missing as a bridge collapses in the floods. Early this morning I went for a walk along our nearby river, The Kelvin. I have never never seen it this high, although I know one of its bridges was swept away in a flood years back.

On the second photo you can see a bench where I sometimes sit knitting on sunny weekend afternoons. Not much chance of that happening right now! If we get any more rain, I think the pathways around the Kelvin are likely to be closed off. Luckily the river runs in a gorge, so there are no immediate threats to buildings in this area.

As you can imagine it has really been dreich lately so last night I made a warm, delicious soup:

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Sweet Potato & Chilli Soup (serves an army of six)

1 red onion, roughly chopped 1 red chilli, de-seeded and roughly chopped 2 large carrots, diced 3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped 2 big sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into walnut-sized chunks 2 cups of veg stock (or more, see instructions) ½ tin of coconut milk ½ tsp of cayenne pepper 1 tsp of ground cumin salt to taste (amount really depends upon the type of stock you use) 1 tbsp of olive oil optional extras: handful of shredded cheese and dash of paprika

1. Heat the oil and add onion, garlic, chilli, cayenne pepper and cumin. Cook for about 5 min. at medium heat. Add carrots and cook until onion softened. Add sweet potato chunks. Add as much stock as will cover the veg. Put lid and cook until all veg have softened. This will take about 25-30 minutes.

2. Blend the soup - try to aim for a consistency between super-smooth and chunky. Take care you do not splash any of the hot soup on yourself (she says looking at her left hand). Add coconut milk and stir until well-mixed. Serve in bowls with some good rustic bread on the side. I put some shredded (lacto-free) cheese on top and dressed it with a dash of paprika, but I can be a bit poncy at times.

Substitutions etc: I used coconut milk because I'm lactose intolerant. You could easily use double cream, natural yoghurt or regular milk instead. If using milk/cream, you could also add a tin of chopped tomatoes and use basil and marjoram instead for a slightly more Mediterranean taste. Instead of sweet potato you could use butternut squash or even pumpkin. The sky's the limit.

(*Or, as someone said earlier this week: "water is patient".)