Don't throw the pa-ast away
Just prior to Christmas, I was reading an article on BlogHer about '20 food blog trends that need to die in 2015'. The writers made some good points about hackneyed trends, such as stripey straws, designerly dribbles of sauce, recipes with too many words in the title, superfoods (including 'clean' eating), misguided hyperbole (i.e. 'don't say something tastes like crack unless you are actually a recovering crack addict, otherwise you don't know what you're talking about'),'slutty' desserts, and a range of other things. Yep, Zesty Santorum (a.k.a. the writers), I hear you and, on a couple of points, I might perhaps agree.
One item I'd like to take issue with, however, is listed as 'Captain of the Obvious Recipes'. To quote the article: "Unless you write a cooking 101 blog, please resist posting recipes with your amazingly interesting new take on baked potatoes. Unless it involves roasting them on an artisanal fire tended by dyslexic gnomes, we can figure it out. We know how to make croutons. Spaghetti should be al dente. Thomas Keller has already taught us how to roast a chicken. We've got this."
Okay, good for you, Zesty. I beg to differ. To my mind, there are some outstanding, basic and old fashioned recipes yet to be 'discovered' by the millions of cooks and readers around the world and, frankly, I don't see anything 'wrong' with food writers or bloggers sharing them over again. After all, everything old is eventually new again. And is it not our 'role' to inspire our readers to (a) cook and (b) try something different (whether it be old or new)?
I guess I shouldn't take it upon myself to speak for the masses (of bloggers) as it were, but certainly with this little online journal, I love to share inspired recipes with my readers. If anyone has questions or needs coaching, I am accessible via my numerous social media platforms, as well as email, the comments box here, and also by phone if need be. And nothing brings me greater joy than when a friend or follower sends me a tweet/email/message telling me excitedly that they baked/prepared my version of Florentines (for example) and it was the first time they'd ever tried Florentines and the entire family loved them!
As another example, a great old post-Christmas standby: pea and ham soup. Various forms of it are in my copy of Mrs Beeton's Cookery Book (first published in 1861). Indeed there are three Pea Soup recipes listed: green, yellow and inexpensive. In the The Colonial Cookbook, which is Paul Hamlyn's 1970 abridged version of the first-ever cookbook published in Australia in 1864 by Edward Abbott, there is a pea soup made with mutton bones. My 1941 edition of The Coronation Cookery Book includes 'economical pea soup' created from dried peas and modest amounts of sliced ham. In more modern times, the esteemed Stephanie Alexander uses yellow or green split peas with a smoked hock or ham in her encyclopaedic best seller The Cook's Companion, whereas Gourmet Farmer and chef, Matthew Evans, adds sliced lemons to his version, published in his Winter on the Farm.
My own pea and ham soup is smoky and flavoursome. It's a recipe I've been cooking for close to four decades and over the years have added some 'secret' ingredients to give it the edge on other basic recipes. One of my favourite things is to add some Arborio rice or Risoni to the soup. More recently I've found that adding a couple of tablespoons of olive wood smoked Arborio rice provides texture, as well as a great kick of flavour. For this reason, I choose not to process or blend the soup at the end of the cooking time. I also use smoked sea salt, fresh bay leaves, swede, parsnip, baby celery and plenty of black pepper. It's good, really good.
SMOKY & FLAVOURSOME PEA & HAM SOUP
500g packet of green split peas
1 large ham bone, any remaining meat trimmed and cubed
1 large brown onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 parsnip, diced
1 swede, diced
2 sprigs baby celery, sliced*
2-3 fresh bay leaves
8-10 cups water
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
smoked sea salt, to taste
2 tablespoons smoked Arborio rice*
croutons, for garnish (optional)
Soak the split peas for several hours or overnight in a Pyrex bowl filled with water. Then drain the peas into a colander. Discard the water the peas have been soaking in.
Place the peas, ham bone, cubed ham pieces, diced onion and other vegetables, together with the cloves, bay leaves and water into a Dutch oven or deep soup pot. Pop the the pot onto the stove over a medium heat and slowly bring the soup to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for one to two hours, stirring the liquid occasionally, and turning the bone to infuse the soup with its wonderful flavours. Check to ensure that the vegetables are not 'catching' on the base of the pan. If they are, lower the heat (you could use a heat diffuser at this point). Check for seasoning and then add plenty of cracked pepper and smoked sea salt, as well as the smoked Arborio rice. When the rice has softened, serve the soup in bowls and top with croutons. This quantity will serve 6-8.
* Baby celery is what I call the new sprigs of home grown celery. They are so tender, they're more like parsley than celery. Use the small 'sprigs' at the heart of a celery if you don't have access to home grown. If you can't source smoked Arborio rice, try using plain Arborio and add a dash of liquid smoke!
Tell me, dear readers, what are your thoughts on old recipes being re-shared? And do you agree that everything old is eventually new again, even recipes?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.