Keep soup in the loop….Devilled Pepper, Courgette and Ham Soup to be specific…

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Keep soup in the loop....Devilled Pepper, Courgette and Ham Soup to be specific...

Midweek and with odd jobs of all sorts to do and to drive away the thought of the grim reaper weather lurking outside – mind he did have an anorak with him – I decided to go for a soup with a kick and a sense of heart too. Something to make you feel toasty inside.

So give this a go – especially if you ever have some ham left over from a joint.

For 4

1 courgette, sliced and diced
1 pepper – mine was yellow – but a red or orange one would be dandy
2 red onions finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
Some dried chill flakes to taste – or a chopped deseeded red chilli
Black pepper
1 litre of chicken stock
Whatever ham you can muster – I used three slices chopped.
Olive oil

In a deep pan, fry the onion, courgette, garlic and onions until softening. Add the chilli. I used a teaspoon of dried red chilli flakes. Stir – then grind over a goodly grind of black pepper.
Then pour in the hot stock. Add 2/3rds of your ham. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down, pop a lid on and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Split the rest of the ham between your bowls and ladle over the soup. This was zingy and about as thrilling as soups get – Simple and effective as all the best soup recipes should be. So, keep soup in the loop this festive season!

p.s. maybe devilled was a bit over dramatic in the title but I wanted to give it a bit of drama and frankly it was worth it.

Anyway, it warmed the hell out of me!

Good old toad…never lets you down!

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Good old toad...never lets you down!

A back to basics meal last night – my kids said they fancied something with sausages and that was filling, and my daughter was pining fro gravy. So…call for Mr Toad! You can’t beat Toad in the Hole for its wholesome simplicity, its naive goodness, its tempting aromas and alluring goldenness. It’s a cheap meal and yet when done right I’d pay a lot more for it! But no need…I cook it!

We ate it with steamed buttered kale – a real favourite green in our house. Oh..and of course, a thick onion gravy!

Ingredients for 4 folk in need of sustenance of the down to earth variety

8 good pork sausages – I used Cumberland with a high meat content
Lard
1 red onion – thinly sliced
1 white onion – thinly sliced
2 large eggs
175 ml milk
110 ml of water
175 gm plain flour
Salt and pepper

Pump up the oven to 220c. Open a bottle of red. Make the batter – sift flour into a bowl, break in the eggs, add the water and milk and use an electric hand whisk to blend them together. Season.

In a frying pan, fry the onions until soft and then put to one side. Then add the sausages and lightly brown them all over.

Pop a chunk of lard – about a big tablespoonful – into a dish – I used an oblong Le Creuset dish measuring 20 by 30 cm.
Place in the oven and leave until it is starting to sizzle – about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and add the sausages – they should sizzle. (Love that word!) Then pour the onions over them. Finally, pour over the batter ensuring it gets into all corners – put back into the oven for 40 minutes until the top is crisp and golden and seriously plumped up.

I am sure you all have your own versions of this – but this is the one that works for me and although I do not make it often, when I do, it fills me with an enormous sense of well being!

As well as sausages and batter!

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Lazy Sunday afternoon, stuffed peppers, cats and salad

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Lazy Sunday afternoon, stuffed peppers, cats and salad

One of those very, very lazy days – gardening, playing with the cat (that’s our Pip above..as you can see being very helpful in the garden!), cooking, snoozing now and then, reading the papers and sipping rosé all day with Van Morrison mumbling love songs on the cd player…hmmm.. a wonderful mellow day to be alive. Lunch was stuffed peppers with a fabulously simple tomato and onion salad from the marvellous French Brasserie Cookbook by Daniel Galmiche. If you haven’t got it – buy it…superb – a big thank you to Johnny Parker for recommending it!

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I pan fried some spring onions, a tomato deseeded and chopped, a clove of garlic and a finely slivered red chilli. I cooked some basmati rice,let it cool a little then aded it to the pan, with a little salt and pepper and some chopped coriander.

I had deseeded and blanched the red peppers in boiling water for 5 minutes, then plunged them into a pan of cold water. I stuffed them with the rice mix, drizzled olive oil over them and whacked them in the oven 190c for 45 minutes – they could actually go in longer if you wish – pop some wetted grease proof paper over them if you cook them for longer.

For the salad de tomate aux onions …arrange 5 or 6 sliced vine toms or the best you can get on a plate, finely slice a white onion – I used three shallots – or you could use the white of a salad onion- and sprinkle over the toms. Season with s & p. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons of good olive oil over them, then 2 tbsps of red wine vinegar and then 2 tbsps of balsamic vinegar. Finally finely chop a clove of garlic – swizzle over the top and a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley. I ate this with a baguette – vital for mopping up the sensationally scintillating juices!

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