Peas, perfect peas.

A few years ago, I wrote about the importance of making soup with love.  Today I’m going to make soup with peas.  The humble pea could easily be ignored by individuals keen to enjoy the meat from their roast dinner.  Children and adults might dislike the flavour of peas and find their colour or texture unappealing.  Not so in our household, where the pea has been given hero status due to its versatility and easy preparation.  My children have known from very early on in their lives that peas are our friends.  In pies; in stews; in fish suppers; in paella; in pilaf; in times of sorrow, peas will see you through.  If you thought that was hyperbole, you should hear me preach about carrots.

Earlier today, a casual conversation about soup (yes, we have so many casual soup conversations, don’t we?) sparked an immediate longing in me to make pea soup.  A colleague of mine, named Mrs. P for the purpose of this blog post, mentioned her love of pea and ham soup with dumplings.  Instantly, I pictured the open pack of bacon in my fridge (in a similar way that the internal cameras on the new Samsung smart fridge display the contents of each shelf- it’s going to be on my Christmas list for a while).  Pea and bacon soup was now on the horizon.

 

Fast forward to this evening and peas take centre stage in a comforting soup that couldn’t be easier to make.  Admittedly, I didn’t add dumplings this time because they went straight into a beef stew that had been cooking all day.  Next time, I’ll be ready.  For now, here’s my recipe for  pea and bacon soup (with photographs taken at night).  I could make more excuses about the image quality, but let’s face it, you didn’t come here for pretty pictures- you came here for peas.

Pea and bacon soup

500g frozen peas

4 rashers bacon

1 large potato (peeled and diced)

1 onion (sliced)

vegetable stock

1 tblspoon butter

small handful of flat leaf parsley

salt

pepper

I begin by frying the bacon in a little vegetable oil until crispy.  I then set it aside on kitchen paper and pat it dry before slicing it into strips.

To make the soup, gently fry the onion in butter and then add the diced potato before the onion browns.  Cook for a further minute or so and continue to stir.  Add all of the frozen peas and pour in the stock until the peas are just covered.

Bring to the boil and then simmer for about ten minutes until the potato is soft.  Add more stock if necessary.  Take the soup off the heat and add a small handful of torn flat parsley leaves. Use a hand blender to blitz the soup.  I usually leave a nice bit of texture to the soup, but you could make it completely smooth if you preferred.  Taste it and season it.  I tend to season it carefully because the bacon is salty enough together with the stock.

Stir in the bacon and add more stock to achieve the desired texture.  I love eating soup with crusty bread, but you could easily add dumplings or croutons to this.  You might even want to keep some strips of the fried bacon to garnish the soup.

Give it a go!  It’s a sure-fire way to bring peas and joy to your home.

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There was no food stylist available.

Choc-a-block.

There’s a reason for the misspelt title of this post.  It’s the wonderfully aromatic (yes I said aromatic) chocolate cake that I’ve just made.  A new recipe from The Last Piece of Cake?  I wish!  The recipe has been posted by Aoife at Yumbolicious.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, click on the link and have a look!  I had almost all of the ingredients in the cupboard, but I had to make a few adjustments where I was lacking.  I used dark brown sugar, almond extract and added quite a lot of my Green & Black’s chocolate drink powder.  The cake was just as Aoife describes in her post.  The addition of cardamom is genius.  I’m off to cut more slices and smother them in chocolate spread!

A great chocolate cake recipe from Yumbolicious!

Vitamin P.

I’m so excited!  Tomorrow is pulled pork day (and night)!  That means I’ll be making use of my chipotles and hopefully creating something very special indeed.  I’m planning to cook the pork low and slow.  If I begin early enough, I’ll still have enough light to photograph the results and share some deliciousness with you.  I’m gonna be having lots of dreams about slow-cooked meat and the resulting gravy tonight.  As Allegra Mcevedy puts it, every family needs a good dose of “Vitamin P”.  Until then, my friends in food…

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Some like it lukewarm.

There’s one part of English culture which I have never taken to and which I still feel alienated from even after many years of being a British citizen.  I’ve become a big fan of pies, I’ve eaten fish and chips by the seaside, I enjoy a nice pint of bitter and a packet of pork scratchings at the pub and I can queue with the best of them.  Even so, I know in my heart that I’ll never be truly accepted because I am not a tea drinker.

The truth of it is that I don’t like hot drinks.  I never have.  Quite honestly, I don’t particularly enjoy anything that is hot.  Don’t get me wrong, I want my food cooked through, but I just won’t eat it until it has cooled down considerably.  It’s the same with hot drinks.  My uncle won’t touch a cup of coffee unless it is so hot that you can melt gold in it.  For me, the very idea of trying to eat or drink hot things evokes memories of burning the roof of my mouth and seeing the sore, tiny bumps on my tongue after biting over-zealously into a toastie oozing molten cheese.  This aversion to heat has prevented me from participating in the daily tea-drinking ceremonies that the English rely on for comfort and as a vehicle for chat and gossip.

Travel, however, broadens the palate as well as the mind.  Time spent in Hong Kong got me semi-addicted to iced lemon tea and I’d grown up adoring frappe.  It was not until a visit to Hungary that I decided to be a little more open-minded. Coffee seems to fuel most activity in Europe and has done for some time.  Sitting outside a cafe with a cup of something hot, dark and sweet is the only way to people-watch in Hungary.  A short stay in the town of Szeged prompted me to do just that one warm evening.  I was delighted by the intensity of the coffee and the satisfying warmth that filled my body.  I began to drink coffee on a daily basis after that.  It felt like a real treat and one that I began looking forward to more and more.  By the time we had returned from our trip, I was buying fresh coffee grounds to fill our cafetière and eagerly looking forward to my next cup.

Of course, I still can’t drink it when it is piping hot; I wait a little for it to cool.  Dunking Lotus biscuits into the coffee helps pass the time.  I stare into the black, swirling liquid and breathe in the tempting aroma.  “Where have you been all my life?” I ask.  The answer is, right in front of my big Greek nose.  I only drink it once a week, but boy do I look forward to it.  Saturday morning, I get out the Lotus biscuits, I set out my Fairtrade mug and I take my time preparing the coffee.  I make a point of buying only Fairtrade coffee and I choose the strongest available.  I figure, if I’m only drinking it once a week, it’s worth doing it properly.  I’m still the only person in the room who doesn’t say, “Ooh, yes please!” when everyone is offered “a brew”, but I’m used to the raised eyebrows denoting slight suspicion.  Hot drinks just aren’t my cup of tea.

On the menu this week.

Aside

Making the fritters and meatballs was fun and I hope you enjoy the recipes.  What next?  Well, I think a home-made pizza is on the cards and something a little different too.

Also, I bought some filo pastry the other day and I’m not sure what will come of that.  Any ideas?

Pie time.

Don’t ask me what will be in the pie or what type of pastry I’ll go for, but come what may, I’m making a pie on Saturday.  I’m playing around with two ideas.  One is a steak and ale pie.  The other is a bacon and leek pie.  However, there is a wild card.  Having recently watched someone make a hand raised pie, I’m beginning to plan something along the same lines for the future.  I may need a new pie tin for this, so we’ll see what happens.  There will be pastry, hearty fillings and high fives on Saturday evening.  All I need to do now, is come up with a recipe worthy enough and try to steer clear of pie puns.

Great artists steal? Are you sure?

Deciding on what recipe to write about next was quite easy.  Well, deciding what ingredients I’d use was simple.  I’ve not eaten chicken for some time so I made up my mind to do so this weekend.  I then began to think about what kind of interesting flavours I could use to liven things up.  Chorizo popped into my head straight away.  Then the fun part started: How could I combine the two in a fun dish on Saturday night?  I came up with the answer quite quickly, but then realised that if it only took a short time to come up with a recipe, perhaps others had done the same.  I Googled the title of my recipe and found that there were quite a few results.  I was disappointed, but not surprised.  Chicken and Chorizo is a good combo and there are plenty of ways to create interesting dishes with both of them.  Still, when I watched a chef on Youtube knock up the exact dish that I’d decided to make, I was annoyed.  I don’t like copying and I try to be as original as possible in pretty much every aspect of my life.

That said, I’m going to find a way to make my recipe unique so that I can share it with you guilt free.  Now that’s the kind of challenge I like!

Twice cooked pork.

As enjoyable as a dish might be, it is rare for me to want to eat the same meal two days in a row.  It would have to be very special or pizza or both for me to consider it.  Having roasted up a treat with the jerk pork, I had the task of eating my way through quite a lot of meat.  What could I do with meat that was already cooked?  Sandwiches?  Yes, some pork with chutney or apple sauce would be good, but not for dinner.

In Szechuan cuisine, there is a dish cooked on lunar feast days called twice cooked pork in which boiled pork belly is sliced thinly and fried with vegetables to create a new dish.  The roasted pork had a lovely, firm, yet moist texture that I thought would be ideal for slicing and frying.  Before I knew it, I was quartering onions and reaching for my big bottle of Thai sweet chilli sauce.  I’m not talking about something that looks like it came from a hotel mini bar with a blue dragon on the front.  I’m talking about a big daddy bottle of the real deal.  Tonnes of garlic, beautiful chillies and a very runny texture.  All at a fraction of the price, I might add.  Once done, I made some egg fried rice and tucked in.  I’ve found a new favourite in this dish.  It’s simple and ready in five or six minutes.  If only everything in life was such.

Thin slices fry quickly.

Twice cooked pork.

Thin slices of roasted pork

2 onions quartered

Handful of fresh coriander (chopped)

2 tblspoons vegetable oil

Enough Thai sweet chilli sauce to coat the pork

Slicing the pork was fun.  I then cut it into pieces ready for frying.  I heated up the oil in a wok until it was almost smoking and then threw in the pork.  I was greeted with a satisfying hiss and lots of spitting as the water in the pork made contact.  I added the onion, tossed it together and poured in four seconds worth of chilli sauce which was enough to satisfy my craving for sweet and spicy fun and sufficiently cover the pork.  I added the chopped coriander which gave the dish nice colour and freshness.

This dish ticks all of my boxes for a quick and tasty meal.  I’ve said that I don’t like to eat the same meal on consecutive days, but I might make an exception in this case.

The flavours in this dish are really fresh.

24 hour Party Pork.

I rarely make the decision to cook or bake something for the same reasons.  Hunger is not usually the driving force.  Even eating is sometimes sidelined when the sheer need to create something takes me.  Today, curiosity has dared me to make a very strong marinade for pork and by golly I’ve done it.  Said pork is now covered in the marinade and is wrapped in clingfilm in my fridge.  Tomorrow I’ll be roasting the pork and finding out if a whole load of garlic and spices can yield something special.  I’ll share the results and the recipe regardless of outcome.  Until tomorrow, friends of food!

Pasta Master.

First of all, no, I’m not a master of pasta in any sense of the phrase.  I’ve eaten plenty and in the scheme of things, most of it has been poor.  I’ve not visited Italy, but that doesn’t stop me realising the difference between good quality pasta and the stuff I’ve boiled up & thrown in a bowl over the years.  Rubbery, flavorless and less than appealing.  Buying fresh pasta has been a regular choice in recent years since supermarkets have seen the demand for tasty and more authentic pasta.  Given the range available and the convenience, is there reason enough to crack some eggs into a bowl with some flour?  This pasta novice says, “Yes and yes!”

Did someone say rustic?

Having invited my mum round for something to eat last week, I decided to try my hand at some pasta and get her opinion on it.  A gamble, since we were both hungry and I’d never done it before.  I found the kneading to be very satisfying in that I could actually see and feel the change in the dough.  I cut some rather rustic ribbons once I’d rolled out the pasta.  I don’t have a machine so it was time-consuming.  The photos below should give you some idea of how things went.  An incredible sense of pride and achievement flowed through me upon serving a successful plate of homemade pasta in a creamy sauce.  Is that really all there is to it?  Well, no.  There’s endless scope for variation, experimentation and of course the development of pasta making skills beyond a few roughly cut ribbons of hand-rolled dough.

That actually looks the way it should!

With that in mind, I decided to make some pasta that was a little less conventional.  Mushroom and black pudding ravioli.

A light and creamy mushroom sauce was perfect.