08 December, 2009

Ham or spam?

One of my favourite tasks in December is ordering the Christmas ham. When I was a kid, our ham always came courtesy of my grandfather, who inevitably won the necessary vouchers from his local club to pick up an orange-cellophane wrapped number from the supermarket. Christmas fun officially started on Saturday night, as we snacked on the long-wished for ham after getting back from Mass.

These days my tastes are more discerning. Sandwich ham has been replaced in work lunches by a favoured jamon or proscuitto. And the Christmas ham that takes pride of place in the fridge, wrapped in a vinegar-and-water soaked calico bag, is a different thing entirely, in terms of price and flavour.

'Epicure' ran an intriguing feature today on the state of Australia's cured pork industry. After organising a blind ham tasting, most of the tasters were surprised (that is, disappointed) at the results, and Richard Cornish provides a revealing background to how our December pork-fest is catered for.

Have a read, and let me know what you think. Were you surprised by its revelations? Are any of the tasted meats a feature on your festive table?

Our ham comes from Hagens Organic Meats, at Queen Vic Markets. It's $30 a kilo, which makes it one of the pricier ones. That price, however, means that we get Otway free-range pork (they're linked from the photo at the top of this post), and the legs are prepared for the season, minimising the need for sodium nitrate to be added as a preservative.

One thing that hasn't changed is the excitement that builds up during December, ready for that first slice to lay on top of toast, spread with Warrnambool butter...bring on the 25th!

Panettone: Va Piano II

126C Nicholson St, Brunswick East

Update: Va Piano is now Piano Piano

Brunswick East's new high performer has added a wonderfully seasonal breakfast to its succinct menu: panettone with cinnamon ricotta, honey, some macerated fruit and a sprinkle of nuts, crowned with a plume of pear.
It's a joyous way to enjoy this traditional festive season bread, and another example of how well Melbourne embraces European customs.

A quick bit of background: panettone is of Milanese origin. The acidic dough used to make the bread is proved for several days, helping to keep it fluffy. Embedded in the dough are candied fruit, zest and raisins.

As with many ethnic products, there are panettones and then there are panettones. Shop at Enoteca Sileno on Lygon St, and you could lay out $60 or so for the best, imported brand of the domed treat. Shop at a supermarket for a much cheaper, artificially sweetened version, turned out in the supermarket bakery (probably at the same time as this year's Easter buns!). Check out Mediterranean Wholesalers for the mid-range: theirs sell from $10-$20 (Va Piano use the Dias brand).

Try your panettone with a decent prosecco, for a delightful afternoon snack, and reflect on its wonderful suitability for an Australian summer celebration, in contrast to the English Christmas pud.

What about you? What are some of your favourite Christmas-time snacks?

04 December, 2009

Seven Seeds

114 Berkeley Street, Carlton; 03 9347 8664

The coffee pedigree of Mark Dundon must be the envy of roasters around the city. Dundan ran St Ali, the venerated South Melbourne cafe, before selling up and opening Brother Baba Budan in the city, an outlet so confident in the allure of its brews that it put its seating on the ceiling. And now, there is Seven Seeds, a shrine to the bean.

The warehouse space, slotted among the light industrial of the un-chic side of Carlton, hosts roasters, cupping sessions, a retail outlet and an excellent cafe. It's pumping in there, and not just with students and nurses from the closest institutions. It goes without saying that the coffee is worth crossing town for, but the food is playing just as big a part in keeping bums on seats.

The menu is a simple A5 page of delicious things on excellent bread (from Dench), augmented by some fine baked goods on display at the counter. A vivid snack at any time of day is their hommous on sourdough, with a superb dukkah and cherry tomatoes. The hommous itself is extraordinary - rich with oil and perfectly creamed chickpeas.

For lunch try a top-notch ham sandwich, with brie, rocket and onion jam.
But, if it's your first visit, don't try and resist the most delectable item on the menu: Middle Eastern 'nutella', served on sourdough with mascarpone and sesame seeds. My God. The nutella is precisely the consistency of golden syrup, and just as sticky. It's not as sweet though, and paired with the mascarpone it makes for a grown-up, indulgent, but not at all excessive brunch.

01 December, 2009

Lake House

King Street, Daylesford; 03 5348 3329

A peculiar coincidence occurred the day I finally dined at Lake House: reading 25th anniversary edition of 'Good Weekend' later that night, I came across an article from David Sedaris, a favourite writer of mine, in which he described a trip to Daylesford - parking across the road from our accommodation - complete with lunch at Lake House. It went further the next day, when I was offered a ticket to see his show in January...

But I digress from what was most certainly not a coincidental lunch occasion. I had hankered after sampling Lake House's renowned seasonal fare for some years. Alla Wolf-Tasker has run the venue for a quarter of a century, during which time the Lake House complex has expanded around its centrepiece restaurant - offering massages, spas, facial treatments, accommodation and conference facilities throughout the year - but the food on offer has stayed resolutely local and seasonal.

This is a restaurant that explains to every customer in a given sitting menu changes that include replacing a condiment - horseradish - which has 'just gone out of season' with something more current. They bake their own bread, and frankly a booking is almost worth it just for this sweetly spiced accompaniment.

I went the entree-main option, while SG chose the latter two courses. An amuse bouche of Mt Zero olives, white bean puree and wafer started proceedings.(Note the plate design in the photo - it's the work of Allan Wolf-Tasker, as are all those around the walls.)

My entree affirmed why seasonal dining is such a joy. Spears of white and green asparagus, lined up like pencils in a box, had been bathed in a citrus oil. An inkpot of sauce Maltaise - a smooth blend of egg yolk, butter and blood orange, apparently a traditional match for asparagus - sat to the side. On top is a crumbed poached egg, marvellously holding its egg shape and its runny yolk, beneath its decadently salty coating.

Our recent European adventures have exposed SG and me as unequivocal carnivores. Lake House's menu is certainly swayed towards meat eaters, though it points vegetarians to its longer tasting menu for more, meat-free options. We both went the whole hog, as it were, particularly in light of our dinner the night before. I went so far as to welch on my resolve never to eat veal. Lake House's is milk-fed, and I did feel that if anywhere in Victoria was going to care for their young meat it was this restaurant. And, it came with sweetbreads and artichoke. I couldn't say no.The poached veal on the left sits on a leek mustard. In the middle are the artichoke fritters, a cruelly tiny portion. The sweetmeats (yes, they are the thymus gland on the animal - don't retch, they're delicious) have a texture similar to a very firm mushroom, and like mushrooms form an excellent partnership with butter. On this dish they sit atop a garlic custard, which was far too much how it sounds to be enjoyable!

The pork dish is a veneration of this versatile meat.Crisped rolled belly sits to the left, crowned with apple and smearing a 'cider braised trotter sauce'. In the middle is a divine piece of pork shoulder wrapped in agnolotti, and lastly is brined fillet, again topped with shredded apple and hiding behind some apple foam. The piggie who graces the plate hails from Western Plains.

Because it was that kind of weekend, we indulged with a side of nicola potatoes cooked in duck fat, with rosemary and garlic. Pretty unnecessary, since we'd also accepted the offer of a bread top-up (such a rare thing, and such good bread, I wasn't going to turn it down!), but very worthwhile.

SG's dessert was certainly the visual highlight of the meal.
The centrepiece is a warm orange 'clafoutis' (their inverted commas). Dotted around are pieces of citrus and blobs of perfectly formed meringue atop dollops of tangy lemon curd. The sweet to sour balance of the plate is spot on.

While in some ways it would be nice to access local, well-respected food with a little less of the pomp and ceremony that goes with high-end dining, Lake House do make an effort at egalatarian dining. Most mealtimes offer a two-course fixed price, ranging from $39 for a mid-week lunch to $69 for dinner. Their wine mark-ups, on the other hand, salute the serious drinker: a glass of Galli Estate pinot gris is $12. (It's labelled as Lake House, so I can't be sure if it's the same wine they retail for $20.) And diners are very well cared for, by a legion of floor staff happy to answer questions.

For more information on the local producers Lake House uses, check out their website and go to Restaurant & Cellar > Regional Producers.

Farmers Arms

1 East St, Daylesford; 03 5348 2091

If every town had a pub like the Farmers Arms, noone would live in the city.

Out the back is a one-hat restaurant, thronged with visitors - cosy inside or kicking back in the summer courtyard - enjoying dishes such as rosemary and polenta crumbed pork cutlet with parsnip puree and roasted apples. Out the front, locals and blow-ins jostle at the wide-topped bar for a stool, ready to order some of Daylesford's best food from some of its friendliest staff.

It's a very relaxed set-up. The menu is up on a chalkboard, and everyone's order is put on their tab (making an extra round or course all too easy!). How many pubs do you know with cutlery drawers next to their beer taps?

I'd been dreaming of sausage and mash since we decided to come to Daylesford. The butcher on the main street was closed for the weekend so I missed out on bullboar sausages, but I found a more than suitable substitute at the Farmers Arms: lamb chops with potato salad and roasted capsicum.No less than three glistening hunks of meat blockaded the salad, topped with strips of capsicum and a mess of spinach.

SG pretended to think about the beer-battered fish and chips, but there was really only one thing he was ever going to order (and if he hadn't, I would have!): the porterhouse steak, with rocket and onion salad and roast potatoes. The meat is house-aged and perfectly cooked - lightly charred and utterly succulent. The spuds were just extraordinary - who needs fries?

As delicious and well-prepared as our meat dishes were, we kept something back for dessert: cinnamon doughnuts with dipping sauce.A glass of chilled PX rounded out the ecstasy, which wasn't dulled at all by the arrival of the bill: two meat dishes, a serve of bread, dessert and six drinks came to $108. I think that is superb value. Particularly notable was the PX - the Arms serves Cardenal Cisneros, which is not entry level (it retails for about $60 a bottle) and they sell it for $8 a glass. On the flipside, as with all their desserts, the doughnuts were $15, which for fried flour is a bit cheeky, but it balanced out at a very reasonable night out.

Other Daylesford recommendations

  • The Grande, Hepburn Springs - a majestic old building hidden away from the main road, housing a bar, restaurant and accommodation, with stunning views from the back terrace
  • Spa and Fire accommodation - great attention to the little details
  • Ex Libris paper shop, 89 Vincent St - no item in this shop is short of exquisite
  • Cliffy's Emporium - for homely cafe fare and local produce

26 September, 2009

Italy II and Spain I: Cured meats

We established early on that this was going to be a meatlovers' tour of Europe. In some of the towns we travelled to it was just as well: in Sanabria in Spain, for example, most menus offered a choice of how your beef was cooked, and not much more.

More than fillets and steak, however, what really stood out were the cured meats. Our trip itinerary read: Budapest, northern Italy (including Emilia-Romagna), north-western Spain. Looking at those three destinations, three things that immediately come to mind are: salami, prosciutto and jamon.

On the proscuitto front, we were in for a real treat. Other than a dogleg as you near the coast, Ravenna lies in a straight line on the far side of Emilia-Romagna from Parma - home to one of the finest cuts of Italian ham. We stayed at Hotel Centrale Byron, where their 5 euro breakfast featured some of the best crudo we ate on the trip.

That's what is so gorgeous about travelling and eating in Europe. Locavorism isn't an 'ism' over there, it's just the obvious way to do things.

We tried two meat platters around the restaurants of Ravenna, one so divine we went back for it again. Here's Nonna Ayeska's: Proscuitto crudo in the foreground, then (going clockwise) coppa di testa (head cheese), mortadella, piadina, squacquerone, salumi, ciccioli a fette. On the second night, the dish became - implausibly - even better with the addition of some onion jam.

Nonna Ayeska also served up this extraordinary plate of bresaola (for a starter!)The decadent meat slices are topped by equally thin strips of parmagiano and green apple, then dribbled with sultanas and nuts. Just astonishing.

At La Gardela their plate of tagliare buongustao (local cut meats) was differentiated from Ayeska's with the more traditional style ciccioli frolli. Ciccioli is made from leftover pieces of pork, and the frolli style is crunchy, like the ultimate version of pork crackling.

Piadina is the local bread in Ravenna, and perhaps the best value lunch I had while overseas was from the piadineria across the road from our hotel: a fold of the thick, flat, chewy bread clamped around proscuitto crudo and provolone, for 3 euros.

Once we got to Spain, I could have subsisted for the week on my all-time favourite food: fresh Spanish bread laden with jamon serrano.

Sure we pay $60-$100 a kilo for the good stuff here in Australia, but in Spain they don't skimp as they cut straight from a leg on the counter. This is a bocadillo served up in a random bar in Salamanca:
The best cured meat sandwich came from a still-warm breadstick bought in the northern fishing village of Cudillero, filled with serrano bought from a deli in Oviedo, and eaten by a stream gurgling towards the Picos de Europas, in the shadow of this medieval bridge.
In Sanabria, while I moaned over the greatest plate of morcilla ever served, SG was in similar raptures over an enormous serving of lacòn de cerdo con pimientos del piquillo - cured pork with red peppers.
In homage to our regular enjoyment of the cured stuff while we were overseas, we've been pursuing the best purveyors of cured meats around Melbourne. For jamon, you can't go past Casa Iberica in Johnston St. For proscuitto, our current fave is the $60/kg import from the deli in Northcote Plaza. Note that most good delis stock imported and locally cured meats. Often the former are preservative free.

Italy I: Pasta

Our Italy trip was no more pasta laden than an average week of eating in Melbourne. Our attention was far more diverted by cured meats and delicacies, both savoury and sweet, from street-side shops. Pasta undoubtedly deserves its own mention, however, particularly since it formed part of some very worthwhile dining experiences.

Ristorante Vecchio Falconiere in Padova looked like a great find. Accessed via a flowered bridge across a canal, it offered al fresco dining from a menu that promised reasonably priced pastas or, if we felt like going a little crazy, affordable, meaty mains.

But things aren't always as they seem. Rather than menus, our ebullient host brought a tray of pasta models to the table, and talked us through what was on offer, including the blueberry ravioli, or a mixed pasta plate if we liked (mixed entrees maybe, but what were they going to do? Bring it out on a dip tray?). Then, he drew up to his full height, puffed out his chest and said 'For main, I offer you my speciality. All the cuts of horse, cooked for you at the table.'

Call us staid, but we decided to stick with a la carte. We were rewarded for our lack of adventurous spirit, however. First up, the fusilli con cinghiale (wild boar, or wild pork as our host insisted).
This wasn't just any wild boar, but instead the cinta senese, a rare and ancient Tuscan pig represented in writings and art from the 14th century. (Good cured meat lasts a while, but I assume ours rummaged in the fields around Greve rather more recently than that.)

Fusilli in Australia, when bought as dried pasta, is normally shaped as a swirl. Freshly made, Italian fusilli, however, as you can see looks much more like someone took a length of pasta and rolled it over the table. Its curves were perfect for capturing the unctious ragu.

We also loved the tagliatelle con funghi misto, a dish of of rich, earthy variety.
Our favourite restaurant discovery of the trip was Ristorante Nonna Ayeska in Ravenna, the main reasons for which will be elucidated in a coming post on cured meats. Their pasta was nothing to complain about either. The restaurant specialised in the local style of filled pasta, cappelletti, or little hats. These came con ragu or, as below, con vellutata di carciofi.

'Vellutata' literally means velvety, and I think it's a wonderful term to apply to the mush of artichoke that clung to the cheese-filled pasta.

A sauce of salsicce e piselli (sausage and peas), tried on different visits with both gnocchi and strichetti, was delicious, but lessened by the fact that the peas had been cooked in highly salted water, and that saltiness dominated the dish.
Strichetti is Emilia-Romagna's version of farfalle, and looks more like Chicken-in-a-Biscuit than bowties!

At Trattoria da Paccagnella in Padova we sampled some of the Veneto's favoured pastas. Most restaurants feature bigoli, a type of enlarged spaghetti, eaten here con sugo di gallina imbriaga, 'gallina' referring specifically to hen. The sugo, fittingly enough, tasted precisely like chicken soup.

It was one of our last nights in Italy and I excitedly devoured a plate of strigoli con salsa di basilico. There are few greater pleasures than fresh pasta smothered in a zinging basil sauce (and all the better when it comes with garlic wedges like this!).The best food photo of the trip goes to SG's choice at Paccagnella:
Ragu di vitello in bianco e fiori di zucca (twisted pasta in veal and white wine sauce with zucchini flowers).

At Paccagnella, house wine comes to the table in a bottle, and diners pay for a quarter, half or full bottle depending on how much they've drunk.

Va Piano

126C Nicholson St, Brunswick East

I love Brunswick. I love its range of food stores, unpretensiously provisioning cravings for any number of cuisines from around the Mediterranean. I love its capacity to support cafe after cafe. Before long, the ratio of foodstores and cafes to houses in Brunswick will be 1:1. I love the way its locals will drive, ride or walk past any new outlet with faces of intrigue, their intention to come back and check it out writ large.

Va Piano is the latest to add its food and coffee mix to the milieu. Perched at the top end of Nicholson, across from the Lomond, they look like they've been there forever, and by their fourth day of operation locals came to sit in with papers and take away coffees like they'd been coming there for years.

While their kitout is far from flashy, the wood on display is bespoke, rather than reclaimed. The cafe's name, cut out from the wooden front of the requisite window bench table (where better to watch the ogling Brunswickers?), sits jauntily on a shelf at the rear of its compact space.

Thankfully they haven't gone fancy with the crockery; Melbourne's stock of cute and kitsch plastic and crockery has been further depleted. It's put back into use at Va Piano to serve sourdough toast with a handful of toppings (that's tomato and hommous, below), fruit toast or baked eggs.The range of filled sandwiches in the counter display look particularly appealing, and muffins and croissants are also on offer.

25 September, 2009

Hardware Societe

120 Hardware Street, City; (03) 9078 5992

Beetroot's former owners return with a new venture across the road from their old cafe, which itself is recently closed and re-opened as the disturbingly named McSpankys. (I don't know what the chances are of someone googling 'beetroot' and 'spank' in the same search, but I guess they'll be disappointed if they end up here!)

Hardware Societe could not be less disturbing. It's delightfully fitted out with glass and faux marble counters, muted flocked wallpaper, oversized bare bulbs and bright cabling drooping from the ceiling. It suits the chi-chi clientele dropping in from the west-end business sector, but it's just as big a drawcard to anyone hankering after superb produce cooked with skill and a firm nod to French and Spanish influences.

The menu barely misses a beat through breakfast and lunch options (except for unforgivably misspelling jamon throughout). Breakfast dishes include arroz con leche; miniature, indulgent raspberry doughnuts; or a slice of brioche from a gorgeous high-tea set.

The only certainty when ordering at lunch is that you'll have to come back to try whatever you don't choose. Cod croquetas are crisp and creamy in a puddle of tomato sugo.
The aforementioned jamon, from Casa Iberica, is perfectly wedded on a bocadillo with manchego and membrillo. Another bocadillo option of tortilla, pimientos and aioli is perfectly Iberian, whereas a gooey, moreish goat's cheese and chive souffle says 'oui' to Spain's northeast neighbours.
Other lunch options include charcuterie and tapas plates (the latter perfect for putting off choice and simply sampling some of everything) and a range of exquisite tarts.

And then there's dessert. Daily-baked macaroons might be filled with lemon curd or white chocolate ganache, and the cafe's dual influences are respected with the offer of creme caramel
or creme brulee. A chocolate raspberry tart provides a heavenly end to a deliciously satisfying meal, its ganache filling held in a pert pastry and hugging super-tart raspberries.

At the moment the cafe is open Monday to Friday, but Epicure reports they do want to open weekends from the New Year. Keep your fingers crossed.

16 September, 2009

Budapest III: Take away?

Here we have schnitzel, Budapest-style. Note that the side-dish of veg was ordered separately; otherwise it's just a schnitzel with its own postcode on a plate. When we'd conquered as much of our dishes as jetlag and their richness allowed, the waiter asked if we'd like them taken away. We replied in the affirmative and he came back a few minutes later with the schnitzel and remaining vegetables neatly packed up to take-away :)

It was just as well he did. We got another two meals out of the schnitzel, and the fairly robust plastic container he provided for the vegetables later gave passage to a rather exquisite apricot-jam-filled doughnut (from the bakery across from our apartment) for the overnight train trip from Budapest to Italy, and later to some flavour-bursting strawberries from Ravenna's covered market on a daytrip to the beach.

The schnitzel was part of dinner on our first night. The restaurant, Bécsiszelet, offered glasses of wine for 300 forint (ft), which equals about $AUD2. Not bad. Turns out, however, that the wine price quoted on a menu is for a set amount, perhaps 100ml or so. Hence, our generously sized glassed were in fact 600 ft. This was standard practice in most places we ate.

Another few words on Budapest's culinary nomenclature. Before leaving on this trip I'd discussed with a friend the difference in Australia between a cafe and a restaurant. We didn't arrive at a definitive answer. In Budapest, however, each type of venue is clearly delineated from others.

A kávéháv is a coffee house, a simple cafe serving mainly hot drinks. A cukrászda is a step up, serving cakes, pastries, strudel in addition to coffee. When it comes to drinking alcohol, a söröző is probably closest to our pub, whereas a borozó is more of a bar (of the games machine type). A restaurant might be a vendéglő - as were most that we ate at - or an étkezdék, probably what we'd call a cafeteria. And don't forget the Kinabufe: Chinese food served from a buffet. We didn't broach trying to decipher 'sweet and sour pork' in Hungarian!

14 September, 2009

Budapest II: Stuffed

Hungarians are quite keen on stuffed meats, often stuffing them with other meats. Pork and beef are probably their more common choices, with chicken appearing less frequently (and normally with the paprikás sauce, i.e. with sour cream added).

The delightful-looking dish below is from our first night in Budapest. We arrived in Budapest on a Friday, the day after St Stephens Day (and the Red Bull Air Race). The celebration had clearly prompted quite a lengthy celebration, and the majority of eateries in our area were closed, Friday night and all. We had come across an open vegetarian restaurant near our apartment, but its menu consisted mainly of weird things done with cheese, and it didn't quite appeal.

Bécsiszelet proved our saviour, however. Here we have pork, stuffed with clod, bacon, feta and olives, in a dill sauce, with a side of crunchy-melty croquettes.We were intrigued by this 'clod' ingredient, and managed to divine that it's something along the lines of speck.

An enticing, basement-level restaurant near our apartment was closed for St Stephens and in addition chose not to open on Saturday nights for July and August (who'd be out eating on a Saturday in summer?). It was worth the wait, however, for this fine plate of 'Csabai töltött karaj pirított burgonyával, párolt káposztával'.That translates as stuffed pork chop csabai style (i.e., with chorizo - great choice) with saute potatoes and steamed cabbage. (This restaurant, Regős Vendéglő, has their multilingual menu online. $AUD1 = 150 ft.)

It's not just meat the Hungarians enjoy stuffing. They also do a fine line in pancakes. I was in Budapest at the behest of a friend who'd travelled there for a conference and I was able to tag along to the buffet dinner on the conference's last night. One of the desserts was a bainmarie of palacsinta (pancakes) filled with two types of jam and washed in melted chocolate. At a buffet!

We'd already sampled our own version at the delightful Hunyadivendéglő, appropriately smothered in chocolate and chestnut sauce, accompanied by palinka (fruit brandy).

13 September, 2009

Budapest I: The problem with paprika

It's been all quite on the W&F front for a little while. Recently, that's because I've been in Europe, exploring Budapest; Ravenna and Padova in Italy; and the north-west of Spain.

The trip was three weeks rife with culinary, artistic and visual delights, plenty of which will no doubt find their way up here in the weeks to come.

Where to start? Well, the beginning's not a bad place, which takes us to Budapest. Hungarian food is big on pork, paprika, crumbing and stuffing.

Their food is traditional enough that learning to recognise a few menu staples is a big help in the vendéglős (small restuarants).

Rántott, for example, means deep-fried in breadcrumbs.Here we have a dish delightfully named 'postman's favourite', consisting of crumbed pork stuffed with sausage, onion and bacon (yes, that is three meats in one item).

Pörkölt is a ragu of pork (normally), beef or chicken, coloured bright red by paprika.It's served here with noodles similar to the German spätzle.

Paprika is a complicated word. It can refer to both a spice and a vegetable, the latter also being known as capsicum and pepper. In Hungary they cook a lot with what we call capsicum, often using a white variety, which to look at on the plate is indistinguishable from onion. They're keen enough on paprika the spice for it to be a standard condiment on most restaurant tables.

To add to the paprika confusion, paprikás in Hungary is similar to pörkölt, but sour cream is mixed into the sauce. (Hungarians are keen on sour cream, but not as crazy for it as Estonians.)It's a meat-and-carb kind of place, since you need to mop up all that sauce with something. A side order of veg doesn't go astray either!

Gulyásleves (anglicised to goulash) presents another false friend: in Hungary it relates to beef soup (leves is Hungarian for soup), whereas we think of it as a stew (such as that served at Koliba). What we term goulash is closer to the pörkölt above. This soup was a little light on meat, but what meat it had was delicious. Conversely, it was quite strong on mint, which was a surprise.