Traditional Old Country Soups to Warm You Up

I just found out that January is National Soup Month. I don’t know how I missed that before but maybe this is the perfect timing to talk about soup as folks are still digging themselves out from Winter Storm Jonas and it’s still so cold over much of the country. As we are into the final season of Downton Abbey too, let’s take inspiration from The Dowager Countess of Grantham (played by the awesome Maggie Smith) who is a big fan of soups.

Dowager enjoys soup

She was the one who said, “‘Every good lady’s maid should know how to make a restorative broth.” I don’t have a lady’s maid (I went wrong somewhere…) and probably you don’t either, so here are some traditional Old Country soups from Europe that you can make yourself to get warmed up!

We’ll start with an English Barley Soup creation from Pamela Foster, author of the Abbey Cooks Entertain books. Beef and barley soup is a very old English dish – you’ll find a version of it in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management book published in 1861, but it goes back long before that.  On her blog, Pamela offers two variations: cream of barley for the posh family upstairs and a more rustic beef and barley soup for the servants downstairs. I’m with the servants – it looks delicious!

Cock a Leekie soup MSFarther north, Scotland is famous for its Cock-A-Leekie soup, which was first written about in the 1500s. It is often served on Burns Night at the end of January in celebration of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, but it is a year-round warming treat.

The soup is made of leeks and chicken, usually thickened with rice but sometimes with barley. Prunes are traditionally added for extra seasoning or as a garnish.

Try the recipe by Martha Stewart or go direct to the source with the Cock-A-Leekie recipe in The Scotsman newspaper!

French Onion Soup If you’ve been to France, you might have fond memories of luscious French onion soup. It’s a wonderful comfort food, served with croutons or slices of French bread on top, covered with melted cheese and traditionally served in a chunky round bowl with one or two handles. There are many versions of this simple but satisfying soup that dates back to Roman times, but the longer you leave the onions to caramelize, the richer the flavor! Here’s one recipe from Real SImple magazine.

Waterzooi soupWe import quite a lot of antique Flemish furniture and lighting  to our store, so I went looking for a traditional Flemish soup.

This recipe for Waterzooi soup is a great one to try if you want something a little different. The thick stewy soup is traditionally made with fish, although you can substitute chicken. It has egg yolks, cream and potatoes in it, so you won’t go hungry!

Do you have any favorite traditional soups, perhaps from old family recipes? Make our mouths water and tell us about it in the comments!

AimeeAvatarAimee owns with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 9 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with EuroLux on Google+. Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Heirloom Tomato Harvest

HeirloomTomatoesThere are so many delicious ways to enjoy the tomato harvest. Heirloom tomatoes are especially fun to cook with and they look beautiful displayed in a rustic wooden bowl on a kitchen counter. Or if you choose heirloom tomato varieties with different colors, create a vibrant centerpiece just by arranging them in a simple glass dish on the dining table.

Tomatoes have a long and interesting history. The fruit (yes, tomatoes are technically a fruit if you didn’t know that already) was already being enjoyed by the Aztecs more than 1300 years ago. The Aztecs called it ‘tomatl’  – that’s where our modern day name comes from.

But tomatoes have also been known as Love Apples and Poison Apples. It’s crazy how the humble tomato can have two such different reputations!

TomatoharvestSpanish conquistadors and explorers introduced the tomato to Europe in the early 16th century, and that’s when rich Europeans started to dub the fruit ‘poison apples.’ People got sick and died after eating them. However, it wasn’t the tomatoes making the rich folk sick. It was the pewter plates they ate from. Tomatoes have a high acidity which reacted with the pewter to leach the lead out, causing lead poisoning.

The French called tomatoes pommes d’amour meaning love apples, because they thought the tomatoes were aphrodisiacs. (Then again, is there ANYTHING that the French don’t make romantic?)

A simple gazpacho with tomatoes is perfect for hot summer days. The cold soup is refreshing and helps keep you hydrated. For extra flavor, it’s great to throw a few heirloom tomatoes in too. There are many gazpacho recipes, but here’s the simple version we like.

Gazpacho Soup Recipe:

5 pounds ripe and juicy tomatoes
1 cup of diced red onions
1 large cucumber
1/3 cup of chopped basil leaves
Juice of 1 or 2 limes
Salt, pepper, and finely diced chile peppers to taste.

Skin the tomatoes. (Drop them in hot water for a few seconds till the skins wrinkle and you can slip them off with your thumbs.) Then core and seed the tomatoes – if you do that over a sieve over a bowl, it will catch the seeds but let the juice go through. You don’t want to waste a drop of that delicious juice! Roughly chop about half of the tomatoes. Put the other half in a blender and liquidize to soup consistency.
Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and take out the seeds with a spoon, then dice the cucumber. (Skin the cucumber first with a potato peeler if it is very rough skin.)
Then combine all the ingredients, and let chill for an hour or overnight. Go light on the seasoning – once the flavors have blended you can taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

Caprese in a shot glassAlthough these don’t look like heirloom tomatoes, these mini insalata caprese in shot glasses are so adorable. They’d be great for a party or a wedding. Just pour some tomato juice in a shot glass (spiked with vodka or not!) and then add the skewered tomato, flourish of basil leaves, and mozzarella ball.

If you like a Bloody Mary, then also check out my Uncle Dick’s Bloody Mary recipe.

There are so many different types of heirloom tomato, and the colorful ones often seem to be the most tasty. Try the black-tinted Black Prince tomato, the stripy Green Zebra tomatoes, or the golden pear-shaped Beam’s yellow pear heirloom tomato, which dates to the early 1800s.

red and yellow heirloom tomatoThe Italian word for tomatoes – pomodoro – actually means golden apple. Some say that is because the earliest types of tomato taken to Italy were the golden yellow varieties. The red tomato became more popular later.

You say to-MAY-to and I say to-MAR-to….. However you say it, I hope you’re enjoying the tomato harvest this year. If you have any heirloom tomato recipes you love, share them with us in the comments box below!

AimeeAvatarAimee owns with her husband and best friend, Greg. Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way. She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina. Find us on Facebook or connect with Or you can sign up here to receive this blog in your inbox.

Bookshelf: Napkin Folding, Soups & More

Part of what I love about living with antiques is the innate sense of history each piece embodies. And nowhere is this more evident than with antique or vintage French Country kitchen furniture. When I sit down at my antique kitchen table, I can almost feel the original owners gathered around, the entire family enjoying a bowl of the classic French pot au feu. Who knows how many generations ate this hearty stew and drank wine together at this very table? I love France, and my antique dining table connects me with those wonderful people on a soulful level.

So I was delighted to discover a trio of new books from Robert Rose publishing that will help you enjoy your antique furnishings during this holiday season. Two are cookbooks and one teaches you how to create elegant napkin folds — perfect for any occasion, and particularly appropriate for those planning a Victorian Christmas. Let’s dive right in!

Top 100 Step-by-Step Napkin Folds

This delightful book by Denise Vivaldo takes you through all kinds of fun and pretty napkin folds with skill levels that range from easy to challenging. Vivaldo has catered everything from the Academy Awards Governor’s Ball to Hollywood wrap parties, so she knows her stuff. The book is helpfully wire-bound so you can set it flat right next to you as you walk through the steps to create each napkin fold.

Napkin folding is kind of a lost art, yet it will make your family members and friends feel very special to sit down at a place setting that includes a folded napkin. And your holiday dinners will feel even fancier with the simple touch of a folded napkin.

In the book, Vivaldo also discusses how to choose the right napkins for any occasion, what to look for in terms of fabric (to make folding work better), and what size napkin to use for various occasions (think: cocktail napkins, luncheon napkins, dinner napkins, and even paper napkins). This is a book that will reside on your bookshelf for years to come, as you discover the fun of napkin folding.

I thought this “orchid fold” would look particularly lovely on a Victorian Christmas table. Email me for a full-size version of the photo you can print out and keep! (Note: All photos and recipes courtesy

Orchid Napkin Fold Directions from EuroLux Antiques.jpg (5.19 mb)

150 Best Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the volume of cooking involved in the holidays? I know I do. So, I was pleased to discover this book of delicious (and simple!) grilled cheese sandwiches. Written by Alison Lewis, a nationally known recipe developer, 150 Best Grilled Cheese Sandwiches includes selections that range from humble to decadent.

A little history (because antiquers always love history!): The grilled cheese sandwich dates back to about 1920. It became popular during the Great Depression as an inexpensive company supper dish and was often called the “Cheese Dream.”

If you picture the grilled cheese sandwich of your childhood and can’t stomach even the thought of the calorie load, you’ll be happy to learn Lewis’s book includes tips on how to lighten-up a grilled cheese sandwich (hint: use grainy mustards and Greek yogurt) and devotes an entire chapter to light and healthy sandwiches.

Grilled cheese sandwiches are enjoying a huge resurgence and were recently named a major trend in cooking. These sandwiches can be fun to prepare with guests, and you can even create dessert sandwiches!

One of our favorites to help us get out of the holiday turkey rut is this decadent-looking Grilled Roast Beef and Stilton sandwich.

Grilled Roast Beef and Stilton
Serves 4

You’ll need: a panini grill or large skillet. Preheat panini grill to medium, if using.

  • 8 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise or basil aioli
  • 12 oz thinly sliced roast beef
  • 1 cup arugula leaves
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup crumbled Stilton cheese (or your favorite blue cheese)
  1. Brush one side of each bread slice with butter. Place on a work surface, buttered side down. Spread 4 bread slices equally with mayonnaise. Top equally with roast beef, arugula, tomatoes and cheese. Cover with remaining bread slices, buttered side up, and press together gently.
  2. Place sandwiches on preheated panini grill or in a large skillet over medium heat and cook, turning once if using a skillet, for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

300 Sensational Soups

Getting back to that pot au feu I mentioned earlier… With their classic beef stew, the French knew this truism: A good soup nourishes the heart as well as the stomach. This fabulous soup cookbook by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds will keep your family warm all winter. When you share the sublime soup recipes in this book, you’ll connect with friends and family members on an intimate level.

Vegetarians and vegans will be happy to know the book contains plenty of meat-free selections. There’s even a classic pot au feu recipe! But I loved this decadent lobster chowder recipe because I think it would make a beautiful first course for any holiday dinner.

Rich Lobster and Roasted Corn Chowder
Serves 6

Preheat oven to 425F. You’ll also need a large rimmed baking sheet.

  • 3 cups corn kernels (fresh or thawed frozen)
  • 1 1/2 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb boiling potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups clam juice
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 Tbl unsalted butter
  • 3 cooked lobster tails (each about 10 oz), meat removed and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 3 Tbl chopped fresh chives
  1. On a baking sheet, combine corn, oil, 1/2 tsp of the salt and 1/4 tsp of the black pepper; toss to coast evenly and spread in a single layer. Roast in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Stir and redistribute into an even layer. Roast until corn is lightly but evenly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, saute bacon over medium heat until browned and crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.
  3. Pour off all but 2 tbsp of the fat in the pot. Add onions and saute until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add cayenne and saute for 1 minute. Add potatoes, stock, clam juice, and the remaining salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in roasted corn and cream; return to a simmer, stirring often, until potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes. Do not let boil.
  4. In a large, heavy skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add lobster meat and saute until heated through, about 1 minute.
  5. Ladle chowder into heated bowls and top with lobster. Garnish with reserved bacon and chives.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and the napkin-folding instructions and can use these ideas for your holiday entertaining — and the cold weeks ahead! These three books from Robert Rose will make a welcome addition to your antique French Country kitchen bookshelf. (Note: We are not affiliated with Robert Rose in any way.)

What elegant, decadent, or surprising dishes do you make during the holidays? Do you salute your ethnicity through food? Please share with us in the comments!

 Aimee owns with her best friend, Greg.  Aimee sources amazing antique furniture, vintage lighting, & high-quality reproduction furniture to help her customers decorate their homes in a unique way.  She loves her 8 (you read that right) fuzzy children and is renovating a 1920s bungalow in South Carolina.  Connect with or sign up to receive this blog in your inbox!

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