Once upon a time …

Chasing ghosts!

Jan and I live in a very small community of only a few houses in the countryside of The Netherlands. On New Years Eve we have an old tradition among neighbors to gather at the church after midnight to whish each other a happy New Year. Our house is right behind the church, so we always go.

Dutch old church

Alternately people ring the 3 bells of the belfry in order to chase the ghosts away and to welcome the New Year.

a  Dutch 3 bell belfy

Another rather new tradition is the New Year’s drink, established about 7 years ago. Each year, 14 neighbors come together to toast the New Year. Last Friday it was my turn to organize this small get together.

Our house is quite small so when everything was arranged with all the stools to seat 14 people, the living room was chock full. But it looked inviting with lots of candles and the smell of fragrant hyacinths.  It was a pleasant evening and when the last guests went home it was well after midnight. A moment after the last guests left there was the sound of bells in the silent night … one of the neighbors rang the bell of the belfry on the way home.

I was not in top form the next day … our atelier was opened and it was pretty busy with customers. Which is all very well but at 6 in the evening I was ready for a delicious spicy homemade soup and looked forward to a long episode of Downton Abbey on TV.

The soup was delicious, I share the recipe with you …

homemade tomato soup


Preparation Time – 10 minutes
Cooking Time – 20 minutes
Serves – 2


1 tablespoon ghee or salted butter
1 small red onion, finely chopped
3 bay leaves
1 inch stick of cinnamon, lightly crushed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
6 peppercorns
250ml vegetable stock
2 x 400g tins diced tomatoes


Heat the ghee/butter over low heat in a heavy based saucepan. Add the onion, bay leaves, peppercorn and cinnamon. Fry until the onions are soft and caramelized. Add the cumin, garam masala, sugar and tomatoes. Stir and bring to boil. Simmer for 15 minutes on low heat.

Remove from heat and strain the soup by passing it through a sieve. Using a metal or wooden spoon, push against the solids in the sieve to extract as much liquid as you can. Discard what is left in the sieve. Season the liquid with salt and return to heat for 2 minutes. Garnish with fresh cream or coriander before serving piping hot.


photo belfry via