Friday 17 April 2009

Tupperware, Arran and Tomato Soup

The only time I went to a Tupperware party was when I was about 20 years old. My mother advised me not to buy anything because you could always buy the same thing cheaper elsewhere. I do own a few choice pieces of Tupperware today but I do appreciate my mum’s wisdom. Everyone at the party was given a present of a square of rubber with which to open difficult jar lids! I promptly lost mine but since then have often used my washing-up rubber gloves to open recalcitrant lids.

I tell you this because I have had some lids lately that were out to defeat me (and E). One was on a new jar of coffee granules. The design of the lid seemed to be a triumph of style over substance. After a lot of effort, I managed to get it off with the help of my rubber gloves. Upon the lid loosening, the coffee jar flew out of my hands and hit one of our coffee mugs which ricocheted against the oven and the handle broke. Now that is strong coffee!

The mug in question (and in the photo) is a souvenir from the Isle of Arran. We bought it on holiday to the island off the south west coast of Scotland many years ago when we were living in Edinburgh. It was a trip we have always remembered fondly. We were there during the Arran Folk Festival and caught a bus to a gig – on the trip home we remember a lot of local kids singing folk songs. We hired bikes to ride to a stone circle and were amazed that the bike hire place didn’t ask for any contact details from us. We spoke to our B&B owner the following day when he was laughing at the idea of a car alarm and he replied that it was an island and no one would get far if they stole a car or bike. It seemed a place of wonderful innocence as well as castles, excellent veg fry-ups for breakfast, goat skulls on fences, and seals. So we were both sad to lose a little reminder of the holiday.

The other recent experience of using my rubber gloves to remove a difficult lid was when making a tomato lentil soup. I was inspired (as always) by Holler and Lisa’s No Croutons Required Event. The theme this month is Tomato. After unsuccessfully seeking an interesting tomato soup recipe, I created one from what I had in my fridge and pantry. I added a generous amount of smoked paprika which seemed a little strong. I decided that maple syrup would tame it nicely at the same time as complementing it with the smoky sweetness.

There are times I use maple syrup a lot and other times that the bottle lingers. Obviously it hasn’t been used much lately because the lid was stuck in place with crystallised syrup. Once again the trusty rubber gloves helped to loosen the lid – not before I had despaired of ever opening the bottle again. I was glad I did and have been using maple syrup a bit more lately.

The soup was a great success. It didn't take much longer than 30 minutes to prepare. E pronounced it to be a ‘smashing soup’. It was smoky with a touch of sweetness. The tomato was the main vegetable but, with lentils and a few other vegetables, the soup was hearty enough to be a substantial and satisfying meal served with a slice of bread.

However, not only did Holler request that we make a tomato soup but also that we devise a menu to celebrate her birthday. The menu for me is obvious. I would serve smaller bowls of the tomato lentil soup, followed by nut roast and chocolate cake (both of which I have posted lately). I am sure Holler would happily partake in such a comfort food menu.

Tomato Lentil Soup
Serves 5-6

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cups (about ⅛) cabbage, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 x 400g tins of diced tomatoes
3 x tins of water
1½ cups dried red lentils
½ cup port (or red wine)
4 tsp vegetarian chicken-flavour stock powder
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper

To serve:
125g baby spinach, chopped
4 tbsp parmesan cheese
black pepper

Heat oil in stockpot. Fry onion, cabbage, carrot and garlic for about 10-15 minutes or til soft. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until lentils are soft. Turn off heat and stir in spinach. Serve topped with a spoonful of parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

On the stereo:
Son of Evil Reindeer: Reindeer Selection


  1. Ooooo can I come too? The soup sounds great.
    Wonderful lid stories! Fun the rubber pad: I had one from a hardware store in Michigan. Now, I have some little waffle weave pads from the dollar store.
    I'd keep the mug and use it for a flower at the kitchen sink or some sprigs of fresh herbs. I know people who have things like this they won't use because they don't want to break them. I use them to bring the memory back. If they break, I have the memory of the place and the item reinforced with each use.

  2. smokey and sweet--sounds delicious. I'm interested in trying this with the cinnamon!

  3. Thanks for participating again this month with this tasty soup. Your recipes are always tempting!

  4. I've always been a sucker for the "burping Seal" but a true friend would never invite his neighbor to those darn tupperware parties. The soup sounds terrific!

  5. Wish I could enjoy that menu for my birthday, too! Your soup sounds fabulous. We have trouble with jar lids, too, in our house--I just use my mom's old trick: tap the lid all the way around with the heavy (non-blade) side of a regular knife (the kind that comes with your cutlery set--not very sharp) and then unscrew. Works every time!

  6. I loved Arran and what you wrote made me feel wistful and desirous of a return visit. It was the '80's, we stayed at the youth hostel, met many likely lads and stumbled upon the island's own highland-style games. Kilts, caber tossing, the lot! Absolutely no memory of the food though :(

  7. dear johanna, of late, i've started turning the tap to HOT water and running it over lids. take care to ensure that most of the water touches only the lid, not the whole jar. the id expands and comes off easily.

    i love scotland - all of it. i've been there twice and edinburgh is my fav city. lucky you.

  8. That looks like a fantastically hearty soup. I admit I've only been to a couple of Tupperware parties and always have felt pressured to buy things. I suppose that's why I don't go to them, for fear of maxxing out my credit card!

  9. I used Ricki's trick for opening jars too. Or use a spoon to try and pop the seal (if it has somehow resealed). Or run it under hot water. Or give it to someone else to open. ;) The soup looks yummy and satisfying!

  10. Maple syrup and smoked paprika. They must be really lovely together - a nice depth of flavour against the earthy lentils.

  11. Thanks Tanna - great ideas for the mug - I have wondered about recycling it somehow and I agree about using souvenirs

    Thanks Sophie - I am sure a little cinnamon would go nicely in this

    Thanks Lisa - NCR always inspires me

    Thanks BPR - one tupperware party was quite enough for me - but I have bought tupperware without attending parties which suits me better

    Thanks Ricki - I do the tapping sometimes (wouldn't work with the coffee jar) but worry about breaking the jar sometimes

    Thanks AOF - highland games are always fun - esp in with small communities like in Arran

    Thanks Bee - I have forgotten the old hot water trick - thanks for the reminder - and glad to hear you fell for Edinburgh's charms

    Thanks Lorraine - tupperware is tempting - luckily I have little room in my kitchen it helps me resist temptation

    Thanks Ashley - I use a butter knife like a spoon to break the seal but it wouldn't have worked with this silly coffee jar

    thanks Lucy - smoked paprika and maple syrup are favourite flavours at the moment - very autumnal I think!


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