Seeing as both Darina and Rachel have recently been assuring the readers of their cookery books that it’s become very fashionable to entertain at home instead of going out – that, and the fact that the Boyfriend and I finally have somewhere to call home – we had some friends round last week after work for hot chocolates. It was a bitterly cold evening as I made my way home from work so I decided to supplement the hot chocolates with some soup.
Coming back from New Zealand, I keep getting told that “staying in is the new going out” and this would seem to be borne out by the publication of both Darina Allen’s Easy Entertaining and her daughter-in-law Rachel Allen’s Favourite Food For Friends within a few weeks of each other in late 2005.
Ilva at Lucullian delights – an Italian experience tagged me for the Common Cold Remedies Meme. This was started by Raquel over at Raquel’s Box of Chocolate when she asked what people do when they have the sniffles – and to pass on any remedies. This is a particularly good time of the year to be investigating ways of killing a cold but – fortunately – I’ve not had this problem yet. That doesn’t mean that I don’t know what to do, however…
The Middle Eastern soup Harira has cropped up in several of the different cookbooks and magazines that I’ve been reading lately. It’s a thick, near solid, nourishing soup (it can be so thick that it’s close to getting called a stew!) which was traditionally served to break the Muslim fast during the month of Ramadan but what drew me to it was the fact that it combines both chickpeas and lentils – two of my favourite ingredients. Most recipes also include lamb but, due to my lack of funds when I made this, my soup was almost vegetarian, save for the chicken stock.
As it’s winter at this side of the world – although the temperatures seem to have taken a turn for the better lately – I’ve been cooking lots of soups. I love making anything that just takes 20 minutes of chopping and frying, and then is happy to sit simmering on the cooker for an hour or longer, until it’s done. As a result of my interest in dried peas, beans and lentils, there’s always a cupboard full of various legumes to be incorporated into soup and one of the best soups around can be made with dried green split peas.
I’ve always been a lover of peas, beans and lentils – things that are cheap and can be turned into something delicious without too much effort. But, in Ireland, a hectic schedule prevented me from really getting involved with these in their dried form. Instead I had to content myself with their tinned equivalents which, although not hugely expensive, do prevent you from using them with too much abandon. Since coming to New Zealand, however, and discovering that dried peas, beans and lentils are readily available through the Bin Inn chain and also through the self-serve bins in all supermarkets, I’ve been putting them to good use.