cooking · gardening · recipe · soup · winter

Lunch In The Garden…Pea and Ham Soup

The chilling winter’s air froze my skin, as I headed into my garden yesterday morning. Rugged up in layers of clothes, wearing thick socks and ankle height wellington boots, I knew the chill would soon leave me.

No matter how low the temperature is, the cold air is easy to tolerate when I am gardening. The cooler days are such a refreshing change…we have been enjoying eleven degrees Celsius morning and night recently, warming up most days to around 20 degrees.

As lunchtime approached, I remembered the big pot of pea and ham soup I had prepared the day before…warmed up for lunch, it would taste even better than it did last night!

This is yet another one of my Mum’s recipes, although I use the word “recipe” extremely loosely here, as there has never been any official recipe for this soup.

It is so easy to prepare and quantities can be judged to suit yourself also. Firstly, I soak about 1 cup of split green peas and half a cup each of pearl barley and dried soup mix in boiling hot water for an hour or two.

This batch of soup was made in my slow cooker although I usually cook it up in a large stock pan. Either way, it will bubble away all day if you wish, on a low simmer.

When the dried peas, barley and soup mix have softened a little, I drain off the water, place them in the pan and half fill the pan with water. Add 500g of meaty bacon bones or a large bacon hock and 300g of diced bacon. Turn on the heat and start cooking.

The vegetables that I usually add are one or two sliced onions and three of each of the following, all either diced or sliced ~ potatoes, carrots, celery sticks, parsnips and turnips. Top up the pan with extra water, after all the vegetables are added.

And that’s it! I wouldn’t even add herbs, salt and pepper, unless of course that suits your taste. Once the soup is well cooked, the water turns into beautiful bacon stock, as the chunks of bacon fall off the bones and the split peas go “mushy”, which thickens the stock.

Toast is a wonderful accompaniment to pea and ham soup.

I do not recall ever having enjoyed this soup more than I did yesterday, outdoors, with the cool bite of a winter’s breeze on my skin.

And as usual, my beautiful little “helper” hardly left my side! 🙂

cooking · soup · winter

Welcome Winter The Minestrone Way

I can’t think of any better way to welcome the winter. A steaming hot bowl of minestrone soup on a cold winter’s night really hits the spot!

There are numerous versions of minestrone soup around and there seems to be no hard and fast rules on the exact ingredients to be used. That is the beauty of this dish; you can use whatever you have in the fridge.

Typically, minestrone should at least contain pasta and beans. The rest can be improvised.

This particular recipe is the one that I have settled upon, after a number of experiments of my own. I have used both chicken and beef stock, however the beef stock produces a heartier flavour.

Adding meat is not necessarily typical of minestrone, but what can I say…the meat loving men in my family can’t seem to last one night time meal without the addition of meat!

One of my favourite aspects of this soup is the use of my fresh, home-grown tomatoes, parsley, basil and oregano. 🙂

Minestrone Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 brown onions, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 carrots, diced

1 potato, diced

250 g zucchini, diced

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon chopped oregano

2 large bay leaves

750 g diced tomatoes

5-6 cups good quality beef stock

125 g green beans, cut into 2cm pieces

125 g pasta, such as penne

2 cups of cooked and drained borlotti beans

300 g diced bacon or ham

Grated parmesan cheese and parsley to garnish

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the carrots, potato, zucchinis, basil, oregano and bay leaves. Cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the stock, bacon pieces, green beans, borlotti beans and tomatoes and continue cooking for approximately 20-30 minutes, or until all ingredients are cooked.

Remove the bay leaves. Ladle into soup bowls and top with grated parmesan and parsley.