When you move to a new place, there are certain things that make you feel like you’re at home, rather than just a stranger in a town that happens to contain your most recent crib. There’s finding your way around, getting a bike and riding it around town, having some friends among the locals, finding a nice route for your evening jog, things like that. The single most important thing, the one crucial factor, for me at least, that’ll make you feel right at home in any place, is having a local pub. It’s absolutely fundamental in tying you to a place emotionally. The role of the local pub cannot be overstated.
Any potential local pub of mine has a few criteria to meet. The music has to be decent, of course – there’s no room for compromise here. It goes without saying that there need to be some good beers on offer, bonus points for pubs with specials that change monthly (although Italian bars, which are notoriously bad with beer, can get bonus points for wine or cocktails). The third factor, and the one with the most power to make or break a local, are the staff. They should be well-humoured, and if at all possible I’d like to be on first-name terms with them.
In Turin I never made it. All of my favourite pubs there met two out of three criteria, but no bar in that city managed to tick all three boxes. I reckon it’s a cultural thing, with Dutch bars just being superior to their southern counterparts, because within two weeks here in The Hague I’d found the place I’ll be calling my local for however long I live here. It’s called Huppel the Pub, and it’s nice and cosy, the staff are pure gems, and their home-brewed beer is delicious.
They also do this delightful thing on Sunday where you can go and have soup there, and you can even sign up to be the person who makes the soup! Of course I’m dying to be the soup-maker at my new favourite hang-out, but at the same time I’m dead set on making a good impression, so I’ll have to play the long game. Over the next few weeks, or months, however long it takes, I’ll be honing my soup skills. And then, when the time is right, I’ll knock ’em right out with something amazing. Here’s the first one from an undoubtedly long series of try-outs and experiments. Something with beer, to impress the other raging alcoholics that come to the pub even on a Sunday: pumpkin, carrot & bockbeer soup.
For not quite a pub-full but definitely 3 or 4 people, use:
- a small pumpkin
- a small kilo of carrots
- one medium-sized potato
- one dried chili
- some dried marjoram – a couple of teaspoons should do it
- 2 large shallots
- 2 large cloves of garlic
- 2 generous tbsp of crème fraîche
- half a bottle of bock beer
- salt and pepper
The pumpkin and carrots are very sweet, so you need a nice and bitter bock beer to balance out the flavours. Bock beers tend to be quite sweet, but there is a lot of variety between them different brands and breweries, so see if you can get one on the dark and heavy side of the spectrum.
Crush your garlic, peel and chop your onions, and chop your chili. Put a heavy soup pot on low heat, put in a little bit of oil or butter (your call) and put in the garlic, onion, and chili, plus the marjoram – leaves only, chuck out twigs and flowers. While they slowly heat up, use a potato peeler to peel your pumpkin (don’t worry, you won’t break it) and your carrots, then chop them up into medium chunks, and add those to the pot. Peel the potato, cube it, and add it to the pot, too. Now add a couple of glasses of water, keep the heat low and let the ingredients simmer for about half an hour, maybe forty minutes, while you go and chill. Maybe have a bock in the meantime, I don’t know.
So when all the ingredients are dead squishy, stick in the crème fraîche and a hand blender, then make the whole thing into a smooth, but not completely homogenised liquid. If you have some chunks of vegetables floating around there, that’s good. So taste for salt and pepper, but don’t go mad on the salt just yet – let the bockbeer do its magic first. Keep tasting and add as much bock as you think is necessary – it really depends on the beer you’ve chosen here, so use your tongue and keep going until you hit the perfect balance between sweet vegetables and bitter bock beer. Again, taste for salt and pepper, and if the soup is as you want it, serve up with some brown bread and a cold glass of delicious bock beer!