Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

29.4.10

If on a winter's night a cook ...

The leaves fell and the cold weather dropped on the city like a broken garage roll-a-door and everyone put on coats and hats and started talking about food. Cold weather food.

Last night 774-Melbourne-ABC1's Derek Guille (why couldn't they stick with 3LO? why does everything have to be so damned complicated?) was asking his listeners what they liked to cook when the weather was cold; and at first you had to think because it's been so long, but then the calls started coming through and they were about goulash and lamb shank soup and pork and bean stew and ...

... and someone called in and said pea and ham soup. Pea and ham soup is almost a default winter dish; the one you think of when you can't think of anything else. It's a good staple, but it is really cooked as frequently as people claim? I don't notice a lot of ham hocks being scanned across the check-out. The clue came when the caller and the host agreed that pea and ham soup goes perfectly with fresh, crusty bread.

Wrong. Fresh, crusty bread is good with thin soups and consommes and acidic soups such as tomato; but it is not an ideal match for pea soup - with ham or not. The two bland textures get in each other's way and neither stars. What they should have said is that pea and ham soup goes perfectly with croutons - small, crunchy, toasty, buttery, flavour-packed cubes that taste great but don't overwhelm the soup. A crunch of crouton and a slurp of pea and a lick of salty ham; and add a drop or two of worcestershire sauce and there's nothing to touch it. It's untouchable.

Some of my winter favourites have been second-hand meals. The following come to mind. They are probably in the archive somewhere; but blogs don't come with indexes, and the search function works when it damn well feels like it.

1. Rigatoni with barley, chickpeas and avocado
Take sauce from leftover lamb shank and barley stew. Warm through the barley and some of the gravy with shards of the meat. Freshen it up with half a can of chickpeas and slice an avocado through it for silky texture and unctuous flavour. Boil up a pot of large rigatoni or tortiglioni. Serve the barley, chickpea and avocado ragu over the pasta. Garnish with parsley generously.

2. Garlic mash with tomato, olive and caper ragu.
Take leftover sauce from osso buco cooked with tomatoes, onions, olives and capers. Warm through the sauce and refresh with half a can of diced tomatoes. Serve over garlic mashed potatoes.

3. The best tuna sauce for pasta.
Ditto leftover marinara sauce. Add half a can of diced tomatoes, a can of tuna and half a cup of frozen peas. Serve over warm polenta or bucatini.

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What are you planning to cook this winter? Or, if you are on the other side of the world, what recipes have you just filed away under 'see you next year'?

13 comments:

KT said...

Here in Oregon, it's not exactly warm yet so I made and froze a batch of wontons to throw into chicken broth with vegetables on Sunday afternoons. SSSSSLLLLLURRRRRP.

Dr. Alice said...

I've filed away your beef and onion stew with mash. I have tweaked it a bit, adding carrots and paprika, but serve it on mash with peas on the side. I won't do beef stew any other way now.

Red Dirt Mummy said...

Oh man, now I'm hungry and it's only 9am! I do have pea and ham soup on the menu for this week - I've never made (hated it as a kid!) but hubby loves it and has been asking me to make it, so... in the interests of a happy marriage soup will be made :)

Ellen said...

Gee, from your headline I was expecting a very clever post where the first sentence of each paragraph taken separately told a whole story! I loved that Calvino book! Now you made me want to go reread it.

I do love split pea soup but almost always serve it with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Other winter favorites: Several other thick bean soups, calzones, pizza, curries of course, roast chicken, turkey enchiladas...

kitchen hand said...

I could eat wonton and chicken broth in midday sun in the Sahara, KT. Delicious.

Dr. A., I will be making that again very soon, perhaps this week.

Don't forget the croutons, RDM.

Ellen, no: it was just a wantonly random pun headline. (Mmm, calzone with ricotta and hot Pancetta!)

paula said...

smooth soup. that's what the kids have named it (it's cauli and bacon but don't tell them it contains veg). i think it's smooth as opposed to that blatantly vegie/barley laden broth they groan about which we adults just love.

jo said...

In the see you next year file these were the hits of our past winter.

Pork ragu - pork shoulder cooked in the slow cooker for hours with tomatoes, wine, etc.

Smoked haddock broken up and cooked in a gratin dish with cream, grain mustard, parsley a bay leaf and butter beans.

Tom Ka Gai was our 'chicken soup' of choice to cure what ails you. Galangal, kaffir, red curry paste, coconut milk, cilantro, chicken. Heaven.

Lancashire hot pot - lamb chops cooked in carrots, veal stock, onions and swede all neatly covered in a blanket of thin sliced potatoes.

Those were the most repeated. But here we are ready to say goodnight to the braise and hello to the grill!

White Dove said...

I tend to go back to basics....comfort food....on those really cold days..(and yes! we do have some dreary weather here in the sub tropics!). I drag out my heavy cast iron cookware and in several hours we have a great Oso Bucco with mash and gremolata...or a Coq a Vin...or a great Thai Green Chicken Curry (with all the herbs from the garden) simmering gently in its deliciousness. Can't wait for the cooler weather...bring it on!

Dr. Alice said...

I have another question - in a previous post you mentioned using 'bacon bones' in your pea soup. WHAT are bacon bones? I'm assuming they are pork. Are they ribs? I don't know if smoked pork ribs are available in the States, but I would be happy to go find out if I was sure that was what to ask for.

kitchen hand said...

Yes, Paula, smooth soup for calm seas at the table!

All delicious, Jo. That Thai soup might be next up here.

WD, I'm ambivalent about the cooler weather but at least the food is to look forward to.

Yes, Dr. A. - smoked pork ribs. Delicious.

Diane said...

Mmm - beef stew with mushrooms (little bit of shallot, pound of stew and twice as much of porcini mushrooms in a red wine infused gravy) over garlic mashed potatoes. Chicken with wild rice soup so thick the spoon stands up in it. Slow-cooked pot roast with roasted winter veggies.

Dang, I'm hungry.

kitchen hand said...

Me too, Diane. And it's just about dinner time.

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