Key’s Cupboard : Alphabet Soup

Key's Cupboard

What with this cold snap covering the country in snow, Dabbler readers will be keen to warm their cockles. What better way than to slurp from a big bowl of steaming broth? Here then, courtesy of Hooting Yard’s bluestocking soup maven Maud Pastry, is a recipe for Alphabet Soup:


  • 1 lb each of alphabetti spaghetti, breadcrumbs, coleslaw, dandelions, edelweiss stalks, flapjacks and goldfish brains
  • 6 tbsp honey
  • 2 oz isinglass
  • 1 lb each of jackdaw feathers, ketchup, love-lies-bleeding, marmalade, nougat and oxlips
  • 1 pea
  • 1 tub quicklime
  • 4 oz each of raisins, spikenard and toffee
  • 15 tsp unspeakable goo
  • 1 family-size catering pack of vinegar
  • 3 whelks
  • As much xanthium as you can stomach
  • 12 pkts yeast
  • 44 zinnias



Pound everything beginning with a vowel into a mulch. Smear it on to the inside of a big bowl. Put the bowl somewhere safe and below freezing point for a week. Cut, slice, chop and hack everything else up into chunks the size of a newborn baby’s fist, then chargrill. Go and get the bowl and toss the chunks in haphazardly. Place the bowl under an outside spigot and fill to the brim with water. Leave to stand for as long as you like, depending on how hungry you are. Transfer to a cauldron. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer. Pour in some milk. Re-boil, indefatigably. Ladle off the scum from the top. Serve with hibiscus clumps and cocoa.

Please note that this recipe will appear in extended form in a forthcoming paperback, Alphabet Soup For The Soul, chock full of mawkish vapidities and platitudes. A must for your loved one’s Christmas stocking!

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About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

6 thoughts on “Key’s Cupboard : Alphabet Soup

    December 3, 2010 at 08:54

    How important is the single pea? Would doubling up to two peas, for example, overwhelm the subtler flavours of the xanthium and quicklime? Or could one even go for three peas if one fancied a particularly pea-ish broth?

    December 3, 2010 at 09:07

    so glad you put this up Frank, I’ve got a large flagon of Isinglass in my cupboard that I’ve been wondering what do do with for yonks!

  3. Gaw
    December 3, 2010 at 09:16

    Ideal for throwing together for an impromptu dinner party with one’s surprisingly relaxed and casual friends (given all the cameras).

  4. December 3, 2010 at 11:02

    Brit : According to Dr Pastry, “the whole thing is tied together by the pea”. Make of that what you will.

    December 3, 2010 at 12:23

    Maud Pastry, it would appear, is one of those minimalist cooks, no cauldron of AB soup is complete without, at the very minimum, one retort of Nigella’s sweat and a brace of her toenail clippings.
    I would have said perspiration but thought that would be construed as being snobbish.

    December 4, 2010 at 10:51

    It can be so maddening for North Americans to try out British gourmet holiday recipes, especially the palpably delicious ones. You go down the list of ingredients noting you are well-stocked with all of them, only to reach the end and scream: “Where the hell am I supposed to find zinnias in December?!”

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