Did I mention that it's cold here?
Restoring an old French farmhouse, and living in it whilst we do it, has given me a new appreciation for how very hard life used to be, for everyone, but in particular those living off the land.
Keeping warm is a job.
Even if one was Lord of the Manor and had peasants to chop the wood and tend the fires, getting the hot air to come down from those 14 foot ceilings was no easy task.
And heaven forbid that you let the fire go out and those thick stone walls cool down!
But if one has to do the chopping and fetching and tending, staying warm during a wee cold snap can occupy rather a lot of time.
In true democratic division of labor, mon mari does the chopping and fetching.
I do the tending.
If you think I have the easier of the tasks, sitting in front of a hot fire and tossing on the occasional log, you would be wrong.
I'm not implying that it's more difficult, just that it has it's own drawbacks….
Like leaving a toasty bed to navigate the freezing bedroom to the kitchen only to find out one may have slept a bit too long, and the fire is almost out.
Not out; almost out. Like in 'The Princess Bride': only mostly dead.
Then one must put a log on, adjust the vents to let in lots of air, make sure the log has properly 'caught', adjust the vents again to reduce the air so it doesn't burn up to fast, add another log and go back to a cold bed.
Oh wait, as long as I'm up, might as well let the dog out (or she wets the bed). So I have to wake her up (old and tired) and convince her to go out an pee. Fortunately, she's quick about it, not liking the cold any more than I do.
Back to the cold bed, for 2 hours. Just as it's once again nice and toasty the inner alarm goes off and we repeat the above sequence.
Mon mari has gotten so used to this routine he doesn't even wake up any longer….
Bless his heart….. Smart ass! I can fix that!
In addition to the tending the fire I drink lots of green tea.
And make soup.
Many vegetable soups use regular, white cabbage. I decided to make one featuring Savoy or green cabbage. Using a slice of ham from the deli this goes together quickly for a warming, winter meal. Stirring in a bit of cornstarch at the end gives the broth a more luscious 'mouth feel'. This is enough for 4 servings.
Ham and Savoy Cabbage Soup
3 medium potatoes
4 medium carrots
3 ribs celery
1 large onion
2/3 Savoy cabbage, 4 - 5 cups
10oz (300gr) baked or pink ham
1 tbs olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
6 – 8 cups chicken stock or water plus ham base
2 tbs cornstarch (maizena) dissolve in 1/4 cup water
Roughly chop onion. Peel carrots; then slice by cutting in half the long way (in 2 or mores sections) then into half or quarter circles. Peel and slice potatoes to a similar size. Slice celery, cutting the wide end in half lengthwise. Cut ham into small pieces. Remove dark green outer leaves from cabbage. Cut off a thick slice, avoiding the core. Lay flat, cut into 3 or 4 wedges, then thickly slice the wedges.
Heat olive oil in a medium soup pot. Add onion and sauté until it starts to get tender, about 5 minutes. Add celery and sauté 5 minutes longer. Add ham and sauté briefly. Add carrots, potatoes, cabbage, herbs and stock. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, 30 – 40 minutes.
To finish: Remove bay leaves. Dissolve cornstarch in water. Uncover soup and increase heat. When simmering hard, add cornstarch, stirring until it clears. Serve.
In addition to this, for the weekly menu for January 8 we have Salmon in Phyllo, Corsican Beef and Pasta, Stir-Fried Turkey with Cabbage and Cashews, Chicken with Spanish Rice….
Become a Thyme for Cooking Subscriber and get the menu, complete recipes with meal preparation instruction, and shopping list each Thursday. First two weeks FREE. (Reverse seasons available for Australia, and others in the Southern Hemisphere).
For more recipes visit my internet cook book: Easy Gourmet Dinners.