Sunchoke Saffron Soup, and on Adding Value.

‘I cannot believe you spent 60$ for that tiny thing,’ said my mom as she saw me unwrap my new shiny copper pot.

Her astonishment was quite understandable. Not for the cost of the pot per se, but because she knows me as a person who very unwillingly spends money on anything that is not strictly necessary to a specific purpose. This year, I only bought two pair of (cheap) pants, and that was because two other pair I owned got ripped (‘fine, there my money goes into what could have been 5 kilos of lentils. Duh’). I treasure what I own and try my best to replace stuff only when no other choice is given (or, in the case of pants, when there is a real risk of walking the streets with my butt exposed).

But, when I decided to purchase the copper pot, I did not flinch one bit.

I stopped and thought about what made me decide to buy that pot with no doubt or question asked. Why was I always so wary about spending money, but could shell out relatively large amounts on occasional items that I absolutely fell in love with?

Sunchoke Saffron Creamy Soup | Hortus Natural Cooking

I loved the pot and I absolutely wanted it, as I thought that for me – a person who survives on and works with pretty photos, could have added great value to my work.
Plus, if treated right, it was something that I will still be using when I’m old and wrinkly, so it would have added value to my cooking because I will not need to replace it in the future, so it would add value to my cooking as well.
Therefore, the copper pot was an investment.
I realized that spending money was not the problem for me. What I was troubled with was not properly investing my money.

Once I rule out all that is unnecessary to my life and decide what I can comfortably live without (and that’s a lot of stuff, if you stop and think about it), I am left with a lot more disposable income that I can invest into something that creates value.
If I can invest into slightly better food, I am adding value to my health.
If I can invest into higher quality fabrics, they will likely resist wear and will need to replace them less often.
And then if there is something that I really, really like because for some reason I think it will add value to my everyday life and I can afford it, well, why not?

An investment is something that is done so you can get back twofold, threefold, tenfold, in time. Investment matters when we talk about material things, but everyday we also invest our time, energy and feelings. Often time, we only spend money, time, energy and feelings, and soon they’re gone like a gust of wind. But we spend those things every day, and it is up to you to do the switch from spending to investing and stop and think about what really matters.

I especially feel this now that it’s the holidays and that the new year is upon us.
So this year drop the spending, and learn to invest your resources. Meditate. Read. Walk. Bake. Stop worrying. Light a candle, play with your puppies. Invest at least 10 minutes of your time every day into something that you truly, genuinely like, and that makes you feel enriched. Then expand those 10 minutes to your whole life.

We put way too little thought into what we do every day. Now that it’s Christmas, we put way too little thought into the gifts we give, and we waste energy making delayed resolutions when we could work to improve ourselves starting right now.

So stop wasting and spending money, time, energy.
Invest them. Create value.

Sunchoke Saffron Creamy Soup | Hortus Natural CookingSunchoke Saffron Creamy Soup | Hortus Natural CookingSunchoke Saffron Creamy Soup | Hortus Natural CookingSunchoke Saffron Creamy Soup | Hortus Natural Cooking

Saffron, which like a Midas Hand turns to gold everything it touches, makes me think about these very ideas.
Saffron is the most highly prized spice in this world we walk on: it sells for 12.000 to 14.000 euros per kilo (about 13.000$ to 15.000$), and, for a recipe that serves 4, way less than one gram is more than enough. One single droplet of saffron-infused golden water is enough to dye a dish a pale yellow.

Enrico and I love saffron, and when Vallescuria, a group of young Saffron farmers in Brianza, Northern Italy, asked me to help spread the word about their project we jumped right in. Their project is truly remarkable: they believe in an organic, sustainable kind of agriculture, and the reason why they chose saffron is that there is no way of industrializing its production. Every flower must be hand-picked and cared for by a human being. What better way to reconnect with the Earth, that mankind is so quick to forget about? They employ people with difficulties and who have trouble finding employment, and, together, they managed to collect their first crop, starting from nothing. I cannot find a better example of people who are putting the money into something that creates value and adds value to this planet.
Furthermore, Italy consumes way more saffron than it produces – it being a very traditional ingredient, especially all the way south in Sicily, and all the way north in Piedmont. Young agriculture enterprises like this, which require courage, strength of character and fearlessness, ought to be encouraged. Do check out their shop!

Full credit goes to Enrico for this recipe. He has this penchant for soups – he can always find tasty combos using all sorts of spices and vegetables (This Lemon Chickpea Soup from last year was his idea, as well).

Sunchoke Saffron Creamy Soup | Hortus Natural CookingSunchoke Saffron Creamy Soup | Hortus Natural Cooking

This would make a rather elegant appetizer, as well. Serve it in small, pretty bowls (I am using The Freaky Raku‘s and Dishes Only’s beautiful bowls) if serving soup as an appetizer at a gathering or party. It would look and taste wonderful, and be perfectly appropriate, on the Holiday table as well.
As part of an everyday meal, it is perfect with salad or, to make it a full one-bowl meal, add some cooked grains and legumes, and maybe a poached egg.  

Sunchoke Saffron Creamy Soup
Serves 3 - 4
Cuisine: Italian
  • ½ a large leek, or a small one
  • Half a medium onion
  • 1 large carrot, or 2 small ones
  • 1½ lbs / 600 g sunchokes, well scrubbed and cleaned
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or 1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 tablespoon butter)
  • 3 cups / 750 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch saffron threads, or 0,02 g (powdered is fine too)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, creme fraiche or cashew cream for each bowl
  1. Trim and wash all the vegetables. If the sunchokes are perfectly cleaned, you can keep the skin on for extra fiber. I kept some of the skin, but peeled the most, to get the prettiest bright color.
  2. Roughly chop all the vegetables, and add to a pot with the olive oil (add the butter for a richer flavor). Stir-fry for a few minutes, until the alliums turn translucent and release their aroma. Add salt and pepper, and stir well.
  3. Add the stock, bring to a boil, then cook on low, half-covered, until all the vegetables are completely tender, about 40 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, soak the saffron threads in 2 tablespoons of very hot water. It needs to stand for at least 20 minutes.
  5. When the vegetables are very tender, turn off the burner and add the saffron (you can reserve a few threads for garnishing). Stir well, and purée the soup with an immersion or regular blender.
  6. Serve in individual bowls and garnish with olive oil and/or cream.
  7. This soup freezes or reheats wonderfully.

Sunchoke Saffron Creamy Soup | Hortus Natural Cooking

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