Last night I was woken in the wee small hours by a high pitched series of shrieks, rapidly followed by hysterical barking from my two terriers.
It’s that time of year again, the breeding season for foxes, and the vixens let all dog foxes in the vicinity know they are available by making this hideous noise. If you are hearing it for the first time you could be forgiven for mistaking it for the sound of a woman screaming, and I have heard of people calling the police at night in the mistaken belief that they were hearing someone being attacked.
Urban foxes are now all over
Foxes carry diseases: leptospirosis, toxocara and mange, fortunately they do not as yet carry rabies as they do on the continent; they dig earths, scatter debris, attack cats on their territory, kill pet rabbits; they mark their areas with foul strong smelling faeces and urine. There are approximately 30,000 urban foxes in
Legislation prevents anyone from killing foxes, and local authorities have tried various methods of controlling their numbers. For a while our local authority tried trapping them, having them driven north of
This is an old, old English soup recipe which my mother-in-law gave me, she thought it was from the Victorian era, but it could be earlier- I have converted the quantities to metric. I think it is quite delicious. It is a winter soup because that is when we get Jerusalem artichokes in our greengrocers, and for some reason I always associate it with January. It is particularly appropriate today as it is very windy, and Jerusalem artichokes make you very windy! Now, before any cooks who have strong views on the whole Middle East political situation get hot and bothered about this, I should explain the name of this soup. It has absolutely no political connotations at all. The soup is made from tubers which are called Jerusalem artichokes ( Topinambour in French). They are called this because the tubers, when cooked tasted similar to the heart of a globe artichoke, but they are actually produced by a plant that belongs to the same family as the sunflower. When these tubers first arrived in Europe ( they are native to North America) the Italians called the plant "Girasole" which means "turns to the sun" . The English thought that "girasole" sounded like "Jerusalem" hence Jerusalem artichokes. It was but a small linguistic jump for some cook to name the soup made from these tubers after the area in which Jerusalem was situated - the cook probably thought the tubers came from there; bear in mind that this was a couple of centuries ago, long before Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq or any of the countries in that region were considered as nations.
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
1½ litres chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt & Pepper [Strictly speaking you should use white pepper to keep the pale ivory colour of the soup without dark flecks, but I never have any so just use black!]
250ml single cream
2 egg yolks
Chopped toasted hazelnuts &/or chopped parsley for garnishing.
Fill a bowl with cold water and add a splash of wine vinegar or some lemon juice.
Peel the artichokes with a potato peeler, cut into even sized pieces and immediately place them in the acidulated water to prevent them discolouring.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the chopped onion and sauté gently until translucent; drain the artichokes and add them to the onions, stir and cook for a few minutes, do not allow them to brown.
Add the two peeled cloves of garlic, and pour the stock over the vegetables and bring to the boil. Place a lid on the pan, and simmer over a gentle heat until the chokes and garlic are soft – about 15-20mins.
Either place everything in a food processor or use a hand-blender to whiz to a smooth consistency, or push through a sieve; return to the pan. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. At this point you can either refrigerate or freeze the soup until you want to use it.
Just before serving, bring the soup nearly to the boil, beat the cream and egg yolks together and whisk into the hot soup, making sure it is all well blended.
Serve with a scattering of chopped toasted hazelnuts or chopped parsley as a garnish.