NaNoWriMo is a time for gorging yourself on a diet of words, characters, plots, twists and turns. It can be a huge challenge, an uphill struggle that pushes your abilities and stamina to the limit. I wonder how many fellow Wrimo’s have given much thought about how to fuel their word engines, other than gulping down coffee, nicotine, candied delights, choccy cake (personal favourite) and copious amounts of alcohol.
My question to you, dear blog reader, is this:
What food gets you through your writing marathon?
Whether that be creative writing, NaNo or blogging, surely everyone has a Go To food to feed their words? When the clocks change in the UK, and the sun barely shifts above the horizon (usually shrouded in mist or bathed in grey drizzle) I find my attitude toward food changes. Out come the recipe books as my winter stomach searches for heart warming chow to put an invisible glow around my shivering body.
Anyone remember the old Ready Brek TV advert with the orange glow that surrounds the kids off to school in the rain?
I don’t like Ready Brek but I do like the warm glowy feeling after a tasty winter meal. Usually my writing food of choice centres around cheesy crisps – Cheeto’s, Wotsits etc, fizzy cola bottles or other insanely sugary sweeties and good old-fashioned Diet Coke. No store brand rubbish thanks. Coca-Cola. However, since none of these things are fit for a consistent and healthy diet, sadly, I yearn for something wholesome and jolly. Something Santa might dine on before setting off on his annual adventure.
I adore soup. But not the junk that comes in tins. Blergh.
Home made soup FTW!
Pea and Ham Soup is my favourite. I tend to make this during the winter because the thought of slurping down hot chunky stuff in the summer makes me feel wrong inside. And because I’m in a particularly jolly Santa style mood today I’m going to share my recipe for Pea & Ham Soup with you, dear hungry blog reader.
Before we get started I thought I’d explain why this post is all about food and not writing. In a way it is about writing as I prefer to write on a full stomach. That way the empty gnawing sensation isn’t a distraction. Also, whilst I like to have a snack or two as the words swoosh across the screen, there’s a lot to be said for writing after having eaten a fine tasty meal.
Anyone hungry yet?
Let’s get going shall we?
Pea & Ham Soup.
These are rough measures folks because I don’t follow recipes to the exact measure. This recipe should make enough for about 6 – 8 servings, depending on how hungry you are. I tend to freeze a load for another day. You’ll tell I’m not a cook and don’t use all the right terminology. I do real cooking where my work top gets messy and sticky!
Preparation time is about 30 minutes or so.
- Potato’s – 4 to 5 each about the size of your fist.
- Onions – 1 large or 2 small ones.
- Peas – Around 600 grams, 1.3lbs. Fresh peas if you got em, otherwise frozen is just fine.
- Stock – 600 ml of vegetable stock, I think that’s about 2.5 cups for you Yankie cooks out there.
- Mint – I use about 3 tablespoons of mint sauce, not jelly, but it depends on your taste. Fresh mint if you got it.
- Ham – About 250 grams, 9 ounces, will do, add more if you like it meaty.
- Bacon – Use one rasher per serving. Optional but looks nice!
- Sugar – Yeah kinda weird, right? Makes it taste that little bit sweeter. 1 table-spoon is okay, again depends on your taste.
- Pepper – A few twists of the grinder.
- Lemon – Half or a full lemon, just the juice, no pith.
- Milk & Cream – 200 ml, roughly 1 cup of each or about 300 ml of milk. Cream is very nice!
- Garlic – 1 to 2 cloves should be fine.
- Real butter – For frying. Never use oil.
You’ll need 2 or 3 big fat pans and a blender.
# 1 – Bacon & ham.
If you want to top your feast with bacon it’s best to prepare this first. Cook it up how you like, fry, grill etc. Then let it cool. You’ll need to chop this up and sprinkle over your soup when you serve it. Otherwise skip it and be content with the ham for your meat fix.
Chop, slice, cut your ham into cubes, chunks, slithers, whatever makes you happy. You can buy a ham joint and cook it first if you like. I tend to buy a pre-cooked ham as it’s easier.
# 2 – Stock.
- Peel and chop your potatoes. Drop em in the water and boil until they still keep their shape. You don’t want gloopy stuff.
- Chop your onions and fry them off. Not brown just nice and soggy.
- Add the garlic and a twist of pepper.
- Add your potatoes to the onions then drop in the stock. You can use the water from the potatoes if you like but I prefer using a cube of veg stock. Tastes nicer.
- Boil away for about 10 minutes.
# 3 – Pea time.
- Take about 400 grams of peas and chuck them in the pan. The rest we’ll keep for later. You can add more peas depending on how pea-ish you like your soup.
- Give the lot a good stir.
# 4 – Creamy goodness.
- Add the milk and cream (if using it) and keep a bit of cream back for drizzling over the top before serving.
- Stir it about a bit.
- Simmer for a few minutes. You don’t want the peas to go mushy.
- Add about 3/4 of the ham and mix it all together. The rest we’ll add later.
# 5 – Blending time.
The reason why you need at least 2 big fat pans is because you might need another to pour the blended soup into.
I have a small blender so I have to do this bit at a time. If you have a big one, then good on ya!
- Blend everything, but not for too long. This depends on how chunky or creamy you want your soup to be. I like it Goldilocks style, not too creamy, not too chunky.
- Pour into your new fresh pan.
# 6 – Extra bits.
Now you have your basic soup. Give it a good stir and set it on a low heat.
- Add the remaining peas & ham. I like the texture difference between smooth blended peas & ham and the chunky.
- Have a taste.
- Here I like to add a little lemon. It can help bring out the flavours of the peas. Leave it out if you prefer.
- Sprinkle some sugar if you want it sweeter.
- Finally add mint. Sauce or fresh. Again, add more if you like it minty.
# 7 – Cook it all up.
I think it’s best to heat and serve right away. Simmer, don’t boil. I don’t want my fresh chunky peas to go mushy.
# 8 – Frills.
- Serve into nice big bowls.
- Remember your bacon? Take a few chunks, scraps, slices etc, and either throw them over top or heap them in the centre.
- Drizzle a circle or a few drops of cream over the soup. It’s quite nice to scoop up a bit of cream at the start.
- Place the steaming bowl in front of your hungry guests and serve with chunky bread or rolls.
- Leave the washing up for someone else!
Personally I like to use real butter with bread for this kind of meal. The difference in taste compared to margarine or other pointless spreads adds that extra element of yummy home cooked wholesome food.
Eat, enjoy, smile!
Relax with good friends and good conversation. Take time to appreciate how warm and lovely the soup is compared to the cold/damp/rainy/snowy/grey/crap/foggy the weather is outside.
I love this soup and I often add other ingredients into the mix now and then – different types of ham, bacon, a lime instead of lemon, and so on. I avoid heavy or rich sauces though as it can overpower the taste of the pea. As for the main ingredients, go wild, it’s all about how you prefer your soup – thin and smingey or full on chunky farmhouse style.
And there you go, dear soup lover, a tasty winter warmer treat to warm your belly and put a smile on your face.