Monday, June 25, 2012

COOKING: Pressure Cooker Pea and Ham Soup

Hey all,

We are freezing our "you know whats off" here in my neck of the woods. I'm not complaining, as you know from from my previous post - I'm a cold lover.

I also love the goodies that come with cold weather, like this:

Pea and Ham Soup.

The other wonderful thing I did this winter is purchase my very first Pressure Cooker. Now I admit it was a big move.....and it scared me.....I had visions of explosions and burning pot contents plastering to the ceiling. Turns out this is impossible given the modern designs of the cooking pots! Who knew!!

Anyway - I have usually made this soup the long way - on the stove top over 2 1/2 to 3 hours. 

If you wish to have a copy of the this recipe CLICK HERE.

Here are the steps:

Buy a bag of 500g dried green split peas and a ham hock. Get your pressure cooker ready.

Remove the ham from packaging and make some lengthwise slits to the bone around the hock.

Dice two potatoes, one brown onion, 2 celery ribs (I used parsley stalks). You will also need 2 teaspoons dried thyme, 2 teaspoons vegetable stock, salt and pepper. I also added two teaspoons of minced garlic from a jar for extra flavour.

Put the ham hock into the pressure cooker and pour in water to the half way mark. Add the vegetable stock powder and a good grind of pepper. Close lid and bring to high pressure and cook for 20 minutes. Then when you open the lid it will look like this:

If you see any obvious fat coming away from the meat, feel free to remove and discard.

Add in the peas, potatoes, onion, celery, thyme and garlic. Make sure your liquid level is not above halfway of the pot. If it is remove and keep (you may like to add this later). Close pot and bring back to high pressure and cook for 25 minutes.

When you open the pot it will look like this and smell like heaven.

Remove the ham hock carefully with tongs and set aside to cool a little. Chop it when you are able to handle it.

Get your stick mixer/blender into the pot and whiz until smooth. You may need to add more water (or reserved liquid from before) if it seems too thick.

Add the chopped ham. Add another big grind of black pepper. Mix together and taste. Adjust flavour with extra stock powder, salt and pepper.

ENJOY!!  Decorate with little shredded parsley if you wish. Serve with a bread roll or crusty bread in front of the fireplace (if you have one).

Instant warmth from the inside!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

FREEDOM: My feelings on Winter.

It's WINTER here in Adelaide, South Australia.

I'm really lucky. I know it. I don't have to get out of bed at the "crack of sparrows" and go to work anymore. I tried to use my psychology degree for good, but I ended up running a small business which killed my love of working with people.......I saw the dark side, and it just really really disappointed me.

Now when I wake up in the winter-time and open my eyes to focus on the day...... and see something like this:

Fog and mist. I think back on the number of times I stood at the bus station at 6:30am waiting till my bus came to take me to the city, freezing and trying to stay out of the mist. Looking at the morose faces of those doing the same thing.

So in the fog and mist, which actually cleared really quickly and out came the sun (well it is Australia after all) I looked around my garden and smiled.

Across the road, where the trees that line the ravine are in their leaf-less winter state.... four beautiful colourful parrots were chattering loudly amongst themselves...

Dewdrops balance precariously on the little pink flowers that are not supposed to flower past summer....

The sun starts to fire up:

I love the winter here, many think I am nuts,

I don't care,

I love that I don't have to deal with perspiration that runs down the face, and destroys any attempt to wear make-up and look nice,

I adore the comfort food....the hot pies, the pea and ham soup.....the warm bread rolls straight out the oven, marshmallows melting on top of my hot chocolate ....... (I'll deal with the weight watchers issues later) 

Wearing "polar fleece", my "ugg boots", thick socks and soft scarves around the neck......

Not to mention, crackling open fires, that give a warm atmospheric glow to the room.... oh - and snuggling under throw rugs with my mini schnauzer on the couch at night watching TV.....

Looking out at the rain or storms from the safety of my house......

I adore the fact that you can get warm a lot easier than you can escape 40 degree heat, or the misery of humidity that fools you into thinking that you forgot to step OUT of the sauna or steam room ......

When I am hot and flustered, I have the energy for nothing - the energy is sucked out of me  .... apart from fantasising about the onset of winter around the corner.

Now I admit, I have never encountered the extremes of wintery weather of the snow covered every things or the temperatures that are below 0. My relatives in Sweden and Canada say if I had winters like they did - I would be changing my mind really quickly. I do acknowledge and agree with their points of view. I've never had to shovel snow or "de-ice" my car. That doesn't sound like fun!

So I am lucky to have the winters of Adelaide..... and I'll continue to sing it to the world.

I hope you liked the photos of my winter snapshots of my garden that I took this morning.....after the fog lifted and the sun came out.

I am lucky and grateful for what I have.

Right now I am off to finish my bread dough, and form it into small rolls, ready to rise then bake..... and serve with my homemade Pea and Ham Soup which we will enjoy this evening....... can't WAIT!