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.
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'?