One of my favourite bowls, is one which contains a hearty soup or broth. If it can have dumplings smuggled into it too, then I am a happy girl ( Middle aged Woman). If there is a lack of dumplings then bread torn eagerly fits the bill. Or have more broth. You will be full and content either way.
1 tsp olive oil
3 Carrots- diced.
1 Medium Onion – diced
2 sticks of celery-diced
1tsp mixed herbs
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 Bay leaves
1/2 cup or 100g rinsed red lentils
1/2 cup or 50g porridge oats blitzed into flour ( can be put in whole but the soup is less smooth)
1/2 cup finely diced or shredded Gammon/Ham.
Stock ( preferably from cooking the ham) if not- chicken or veg stock will be fine.
The Method and the Madness
Warm the olive oil in a large pan, then add the diced veg herbs, bay leaf and pepper, and cook on medium heat until the onions are translucent.
Add the oats ( preferably blended into flour) and the rinsed lentils. Stir until everything is combined and the oats have had a chance to ‘toast’ slightly. Add your very finely diced /shredded gammon/ham, and pour in stock till everything is covered. When it reaches a rolling boil, turn to the lowest setting and let it simmer for 10 minutes, adding more stock as you go for the consistency you prefer. When it is looking perfect for you, taste it.
Remember that gammon/ham and stock of any kind can be quite salty, they all vary so much. So with this in mind, only add salt at the end if it is needed, in the past i have salted soups only to find that when it has simmered/thickened up the flavour has intensified, and I am not a huge fan of salt. ( High blood pressure family history) I find when I use the gammon cooking stock I do not need any extra stock cubes or salt, if I only have vegetable or chicken stock then I usually want to add some.
This dish is also lovely with scraps of chicken and chicken stock in place of gammon, and as a vegan dish is beautiful with vegetable stock and a tablespoon or two of yeast extract. (Marmite) . Often i have made the vegan version, and simply added some scraps of meat to the bowls of those that wanted it.
One of my favourite things about this dish, is that other than the lentils and olive oil, the ingredients were all grown/raised in the UK. Not only is this vital for supporting our UK farmers and reducing our carbon footprint, it also means they are readily available during lockdown as they are not being imported.
I love getting my fruit and veg box from the local market every week.
The blog below is a little ditty to my childhood on the allotment, getting back to our roots, and learning to be amazed again. Give it a read if you have a few minutes, because I really need to know about the worms!
Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere
The Kitchen is often referred to as the heart of the home, its regular, steady beat nourishing the inhabitants and feeding their souls.
Our Kitchen is very small, 2 adults cannot comfortably pass by or work in it together, but at a squeeze my five year old Nephew can stand on a chair alongside me, excitement obvious, as I let him mix things to his heart’s content, and ruffle his wiry hair. My Mamma brought some cookie cutters for him a few weeks ago, and when lockdown is over, I will delight in his delight, as he makes Koala shaped cookies and mini star pizzas.
My Niece’s, with nervous supervision, can stand together, for the cutting of things, or the stirring of hot things on the stove.
Tasks that are allowed with age, experience, and a modicum of common sense.
Manchild Two still lives at home, and whilst he can knock up a thing or two, he hasn’t inherited my fascination with creating food, and sees it more as a function. Left to his own devices he will live on jam butties, and after all, who could blame him? But I do insist upon dragging him in to observe or assist when I know something is simple and quick and will be of use to him in the days where I am not at home. All things well, by the time he leaves home, he will have a decent repertoire and his jam butty skills will be legendary. He may even have progressed to toast.
Manchild the First, the Original, the Best, or whatever other names he uses to tease Manchild Two with, has his own place. He is often found hovering in the entrance to our Kitchen because I am often there, and this becomes the manner in which we have a good catch up, as I try to show him how to stretch his small food budget into something tasty and filling, so he can worry about the gas and electric meter instead.
Food is part of life’s journey, the stages that we go through as we learn about food, often entwined with life’s milestones, intrinsically linked with our emotions.
For some, there have been no days sitting on the worktop in their Grandparent’s kitchen, watching Nanna make her pastry, or watching Grandad make his Manchester Tart.
I would gaze in fascination as Nanna would deftly spin the pie dish, using a ceramic handled knife to trim the excess pastry from the edges. Like a Circus performer she span with one hand and trimmed with the other, something she no doubt saw her own Mother or Grandmother do.
It made a particular noise as the knife came into contact with the dish. A sound that I cannot type to describe, but one that lingers in my memory, and always will. I believe my love was born here, as my legs swung atop the units and we chattered. Eventually, I too got to stand on the chair next to her at the worktop, with an adult’s apron tucked up to fit me.
I am by no means an exceptional cook, and far from a professional. What I am is someone who can see potential in the most basic of things, and give it some love, so that it thrives, and becomes something even better.
So whilst you may not find recipes or ideas here, that are Rocket Science, you will find a good, honest love of making the most from what you have, and the intention to make you feel the love too.
You are all welcome in my Kitchen.
Dedicated to my amazing Grandparents, without whom my love may never have sparked.
Wilfred and Jennie, loved beyond measure.