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Brown Windsor Soup


The very soup reputed to have built the British empire--oh-so-fashionable in Victorian and Edwardian times and served daily, until recently, on the dining cars of British railways. You get the picture? Tradition! Plus it has rich and savory ingredients--root vegetables sweated slowly in butter, shin of beef, lamb, "faggot of herbs," all topped off with a splash of fragrant Madeira. But if you follow tradition, you've got to "rub the meat, vegetables, and broth through a sieve or blend in a liquidiser." Your choice. By my lights it turns a lovely, complex bowl of soup into thick mud. Serve hot as a substantial first course to 8 people.

Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat and fry the meat, bones, and vegetables until lightly browned. Sprinkle in the flour and cook until brown, adding butter as needed. [Please note, if you making many brown roux, you may simply roast several cups of flour in a heavy pan in a 375 degree oven until it is nicely brown, then store it in a jar. You can then use it in recipes like these without having to go through the browning step at all. Just stir it in and proceed to the next step.] Gradually stir in the stock, bring the soup to a boil, add the herbs, reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for about 2 hours.

When the meat is tender, remove the bones, any skin, and the herb package. Season to taste with the salt and cayenne. Then make your choice. You can leave the soup as is, add the rice (optional) and heat through, then ladle into bowls and stir a Tablespoon of Madeira into each one and serve immediately OR you can be traditional. Puree the soup, solids first, pour back into the pan to reheat, stir in the rice (optional), ladle into bowls and stir a Tablespoon of Madeira into each one. Serve immediately.