Rain, Caves and Autumn Soup

by Sarah on November 1, 2010

orange soup

It finally rained and it was such a rare climatic event that we all stood outside getting completely soaked, marveling at the wonders of nature.

hirbit midras, israel

The very next day, the soil still damp, we went on a cave-hike with friends from Sweden. From above, Hirbit Midras doesn’t look very interesting, just patches of scrub brush covering rocky terrain, but underneath is a labyrinth of secret passages. During the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132 AD–136 AD, these manmade caves were used by Jewish rebels to escape Roman troops. For a short time, the rebellion was successful in re-establishing an independent state of Israel in parts of Judea but eventually the Jews were crushed, beginning two millennia in the Diaspora.

columbarium, dovecots,

Columbarium thought to be used to grow pigeons

These caves were not only temporary hideouts but were an amazing self contained ecosystem. Food was supplied by the underground columbaria, where it is thought pigeons or doves were raised for food and rain water was collected in large cisterns to use during the summer months.  Carob, olive and pomegranates trees still grow wild in the surrounding hills and probably supplemented their diet. In the spring time, edible wild greens and herbs such as za’atar, sage and chicory could also be gathered.

Today it is a great place to explore, and thanks to our friends, we have a new game called “let’s see who can keep their shirts clean after crawling in the tunnels” needless to say it wasn’t me (in fact it wasn’t anyone from my family).  I was more than happy to get out of that claustrophobic place but the boys went back in determined to do it without flashlights. Eek!

hirbit midras

Hirbit Midras, tunnel exploration


view without flashlight

Here is a quick colorful soup for a cool autumn day, great after a day of caving (although in truth, we had kebabs)

Autumn Soup with Butternut Squash

I thought about roasting the butternut squash and sweet potatoes and caramelizing the onions for a richer, fuller flavor but at the end, because of lack of time and energy, I did it the simple way. I wasn’t disappointed with the results.  It was still hearty enough that I would make it again.

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks

3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks

1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into large chunks

2-3 stalks of celery, chopped into large chunks

1 onion, cut in half


yogurt for serving

In a large pot add all the chopped vegetables and cover with water. Boil until the vegetables are soft. Drain the vegetables, reserving the broth. Put all the vegetables, except the onions in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add a bit of the broth to dilute the puree. Transfer back to pot and add more broth if necessary. Serve with a dollop of goat yogurt and a sprinkling of herbs


Roast the vegetables first and caramelize the onions before softening by boiling or steaming. Fry a bit of freshly ground coriander and garlic in olive oil and drizzle on top.

grape vines, autumn

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Hannah @Cooking Manager November 1, 2010 at 11:29 pm

It always amazes me how much stuff is hidden under the ground here. Where is the place you visited?

Looking forward to publishing your interview on Monday.


Sarah November 1, 2010 at 11:33 pm

thanks! Hirbit Midras to right after the Leon/srigim junction, south of Emek Ella intersection (in the direction of Bet Guvrin). There are many cave dwellings/tunnels all across this area and there is nothing my boys like to do more.


Yael November 2, 2010 at 12:24 am

My favorite photo in this post is the one without flashlight :)
looks like you had lots of fun this weekend. hope this weekend we can do some hiking too.


Yael the Finn November 2, 2010 at 6:10 am

Thanks for sharing this;I don’t think I have seen those caves,but would surely want to see them one day.
Your soup picture is really pretty!


Rivki Locker November 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm

This sounds wonderful and I LOVE your food photos. I personally like to fry a few sage leaves to garnish butternut squash / sweet potato soup with. The tastes are wonderful complements and the deep green fried sage is a wonderful contrast to the rich orange of the soup.


Sarah November 2, 2010 at 10:06 pm

great idea! I have a large sage bush growing in my yard and this would be a perfect way to use it


Tanvi November 4, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Hi Sarah,
Thanks for stopping by.
Oh dont talk about rain…I miss it severely in Vegas..last we had was 5 months back in April mid.I love that cave with pigeon holes. My hubs is a great fan of sweet potato..this will be a yum recipe for him and the yogurt topping will be just perfect for me :)


Cherine November 5, 2010 at 12:50 am

Gorgeous soup!


Sarah November 5, 2010 at 1:21 am

thanks Cherine!


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