…is what we had for dinner. I think that’s brilliant, that pea soup gave its name to a filthy fog and the fog gave its name right back to the soup. I’d boiled a piece of gammon for last night and saved the cooking water, in which I’d put onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns and coriander seeds. So today, all I needed to do was cook the dried split green peas in the (strained) stock, fry more vegetables and cook them all together for another hour. It didn’t even need seasoning. The baker had sold, cheap, the last few rolls to the Sage for the chickens, but I heated them up for us. That sounds a bit mean actually, snatching food from under the chickens’ beaks, especially since the dear little things have kept us in eggs all winter.
We never did cut back on eating eggs, by the way. Not that we often have them for breakfast, but I simply didn’t believe the warnings about their cholesterol-raising properties. Actually, I did have a boiled egg for breakfast a couple of weeks ago. It was lovely. Come to think of it, I had one of the bantam’s bread rolls with it then, too. Me bad indeed.
It’s interesting, going in to a lesson in school once a week only, to observe how the students change over the months. Back in September, the year 9s (aged 13-14) were unsure in their new school and most of them were still children. A couple of tall boys, gangling and awkward or chunky and – awkward! – and some sophisticated-looking girls, but very young. Now, half a year later, they’re much more assured and, some of them, potentially harder to manage. Not in the class I go to, they’re fine and they’re polite and surprisingly friendly, in a respectful sort of way, with me. I could equally transpose ‘friendly’ and ‘respectful’ – indeed, though some older pupils don’t accept my authority to tell them what to do as they know I’m not their teacher, they are still polite and just grin at me. But the Year 9s, they do ask me for help – they also know my limitations mind you! – and … oh crumbs, you know, they treat me kindly as a granny figure I suppose.
The other thing that gets me is how beautiful they are. Gorgeous, almost without exception. Appreciably better groomed than when I was their age, both boys and girls. At that age it comes naturally, too. I bet most of them have no idea and only see what they’d like to change.
At LOM’s request, more details of the soup –
I think I could have used the veg I cooked with the gammon to make the stock, but I was afraid they would be salty (it was only one onion, a few slightly wizened carrots and a couple of outside celery stalks so it wasn’t much waste. I also cooked swede, carrot and celery together as a vegetable so I saved their cooking water. Altogether it was a couple of litres once strained. I added 12 ounces (I use metric and imperial indiscriminately) of dried green split peas and simmered gently for half an hour. I chopped – actually I did it in the food processor – another big carrot and an onion and a stray shallot and a couple more celery stalks, fried them gently in a little oil for 10 minutes or so. Then I chucked them in with the peas and simmered again for an hour or so, then put through the food processor until small. This still has some pea texture, if you want it completely smooth you’d want to put it through a mouli.
You could use other vegetables, leek for example. I didn’t put in so much carrot that it would change the colour.
I wouldn’t use ham stock to cook beans that need soaking, as the salt would toughen them. I’d soak them overnight, then cook them (kidney beans, blackeye beans, chickpeas etc) in plain water until tender and then drain them and use stock for the rest of the recipe. Kidney beans need boiling for 10 minutes to destroy toxins or they give you stomach cramps, but are digestible after a preliminary hard boiling. Never think that beans will finish cooking in the recipe, cook them until tender first.