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Posts Tagged ‘Winter Recipes’

Cheap Winter Eats

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

The cold has settled in and we’re in for a long run of wintery days by the looks of it! One comfort is food – soups and homecooked meals fill the kitchen with gorgeous smells that’ll bring them running. Look for dishes based on seasonal vegetables, or inexpensive vegetables which one tends to pass over in favour of something more exotic (think cabbage – how many times do you walk past that and buy something three times the price because you think cabbage is boring).

Potatoes are an excellent ingredient to fill hungry tummies. They’re especially good for us when jacket-baked.

How do you get those gorgeously-crunchy potato skins on jacket-baked potatoes? Easy. Scrub the potatoes and while they’re still damp sprinkle them with salt. Move them to a dry part of the bench, turn them over and sprinkle the top side also with salt. Transfer to an oven preheated to 200°C / 400°F (fanbake) and bake for at least 1 1/2 hours, even longer – up to 2 hours. Immediately you remove the potatoes from the oven, split them in half with a sharp knife, otherwise the steam inside the potato will soften the skin. Either serve as they are, with butter, salt and pepper, or with sour cream, or top them with a homemade Bolognese or tomato sauce – such a great way to use up small amounts of leftover pasta sauce, and you don’t need any added fat!

Alternatively, scoop out the flesh and mash with a little hot milk and butter and pile it back into the potatoes, top with grated cheese and grill until sizzling. Or mix the potato flesh with any manner of ingredients before stuffing it back into the potato shell: chopped ham or bacon or roast chicken, chopped spring onions or snipped chives, canned beans or sweet corn, chopped onion and celery softened in a little olive oil, and so on and so forth. The recipe here is one my kids loved when they were growing up.

Jacket Potatoes with Bacon and Sweet Chilli Sauce

One of the great things about pasta dishes is their speed. They’re also nutritious and fill you up. I always keep canned beans in the pantry, and many types of pasta shapes, and with a bunch of rocket from the garden, a meal like this is easy on the budget, and on me – over and done in twenty minutes.

Rocket & Beans with Fusilli

A mug of homemade soup is an inexpensive nutritious after-school warm-up.

Make the soup, even a double batch, then when it is cool, line soup mugs with snap-lock bags and fill with soup. Seal and freeze, then remove mug. Then you have the perfect amount to thaw quickly in the microwave (or in a saucepan) to fill a mug. Potatoes help thicken the soup, and leeks are inexpensive at this time of year. You could use homemade chicken stock in this soup, and even swirl in a little leftover roast chicken at the end.

Chunky Leek and Potato Soup

The Battle of The Soups

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I visited my dad 2 weeks ago on a windy wet Saturday. The day before I had bought a bacon hock to make soup and I mentioned this and told him I’d bring him some once I made the soup. And then we reminisced about the great pots of comforting soup my mother used to make and how they virtually kept us alive throughout winter – we like to reminisce about such things, and although his mind is as sharp as a tack, we allow each other to exaggerate a little, as you do. I duly made a big pot of soup with the bacon hock and split peas. It smelled so good while it was cooking, and tasted delicious, full of memories and goodness. Over I went to dad’s with enough soup for three meals. What do you think I could smell when I walked in his house? Soup! Pea soup! WHAT? I thought I must have spilled some and that was what I could smell.

He was sitting down on the couch so I went up to him, gave him a cuddle and showed him my containers of soup, expecting the usual praise ‘you shouldn’t gone to so much trouble, etc, etc, but he just started laughing, guffawing even, which is more than a smirk or a chuckle, and a trifle annoying when you’re not in on the joke. I followed his eyes and glanced over to the kitchen, and there lined up neatly for all to see were a dozen containers filled with a thick soup-like concoction. The cheeky devil! He’d gone ahead and made his own big batch of soup, in fact he’d made enough for Africa by the look of it (the pot was still more than half-full). You’re probably thinking, so what… but the remarkable thing about this event is that my dad is 97 years-old. He still lives on his own, as he has done since my mother died 26 years ago, and he still cooks for himself, too. And he’d decided he fancied soup after we’d talked about it, and he wasn’t waiting for me to bring him any just in case I forgot. He was suspicious of my soup at first, claiming his had more ingredients and had been cooked longer than mine, but mine had a better colour, and there was meat in it, which he is partial to. And I reckon his soup was too thick –no challenge at all to the proverbial ‘so thick you can stand a wooden spoon in it upright’. Without wanting to lose ground, but feeling a bit humbled, and maybe secretly thinking my soup did look better than his because of the chunks of bacon, he suggested that I freeze his containers of soup, which I did, labeling them and stacking them so he could find them easily, and leave mine in the fridge for his dinner that night. He had it for dinner and more for lunch the next day. When I spoke to him yesterday, he said he’d enjoyed it, but, ‘Do you know what? I’m over soup. I’ve gone off it. I get a craving for something these days, make enough for an army, then go off it.’ I think mine tasted better than his, and he knew it!

If you’ve got a soup story you’d like to share with me and other readers, send it in. And if you’ve got a fabulous soup recipe you’d like to share, email it to me. Maybe we should have a competition for the best soup…you’ll need to send in a picture, too. And, I’ll send an autographed copy of Sizzle Sensational Barbecue Food to the winner. Get those soup pots a-bubbling!