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Friday, 8 January 2021

Pea and Ham Soup

I guess people react to the news of entering another lockdown in various ways, although we are all universally unnerved by it to some degree. I think we all feel we need to react to it in some way - to feel as if we are doing something useful in a situation that is very much out of our control. For me, my inner response is to not waste any food. It's not a great big shouty voice but rather a little whisper that I'm barely even aware is there but is nonetheless informing my behaviour. This perhaps explains why in March 2020 as we entered the first lockdown I found myself pickling the end of season beetroot whilst others were out buying excessive amounts of toilet roll.

Lockdown 3 is an interesting one because it coincides with the end of the Brexit transition period and the completely bizarre events around the transition of the American presidency. There is definitely a feeling of worldworld unrest and uncertainty. Although we are told to continue to shop as normal and to not hoard for the sake of all of us having enough, it is hard not to wonder what might run out or be delayed at the ports. Although I don't have a feeling that we are going to be plunged into something along the lines of World War shortages, I am used to my life of relative privelage and don't want to struggle to find daily essentials (or even luxuries, if I'm honest) in the shops.

So, here I am in January 2021 feelings as if it is my absolute duty to avoid food waste and to make the most of what we have. I mean, this is not a massive change in behaviour as I can't stand food waste anyway and do what I can to make sure that very little gets put out in our food bin each week. 

One of the things I had in my fridge recently was a 750g smoked gammon. I had bought it before Christmas because it stores well and I figured I could use it if my meal planning went awry some time between food deliveries. Anyway, it was still there on Sunday and we didn't have a piece of meat for a roast dinner (this was deliberate as I figured we needed a break from roasts after Christmas dinner) so I decided it would be a good day to cook it. 

I like baked potatoes with boiled gammon, a bit of purple coleslaw and a salad. As it happened, I had tried going around to the allotment on the Friday before only to discover that someone had vandalised the padlock to the gates and it was jammed locked. I guess it could have been worse but it was vaguely annoying because I was trying to empty the kitchen vegetable scraps bin into the compost bin so that wasn't possible. I would also have liked to have harvested some more potatoes, some of our abundant watercress and another beetroot. All plans scuppered, I returned home and reported the problem to parish council who told me they would send their warden out on Monday to replace the lock. It wasn't a big deal and not a very long wait between Friday and Monday but it certainly added to my feeling of unease about food supply issues, at least on a subconscious level.

So, when it came to the Sunday gammon meal, I had to make do with the last few potatoes in the bucket that we had harvested before Christmas. Not ideal because it can be hard to find a suitably large, blemish-free potato for baking from an abundance of potatoes; harder still from just a handful. But as it happens, I was in luck and managed to find 4 just about big enough, undamaged potatoes for baking. However, there was no watercress for the salad and no beetroot for the purple coleslaw so we had frozen peas and sweetcorn instead. Yeah, first world problems!

Anyway, with food waste in the back of my mind, I save the gammon cooking water to make the basis of  pea and ham soup. Then the next day I made a quiche using some of the leftover gammon and leftover Christmas cheese, and I kept just enough gammon to use in the soup the following day, along with some marrowfat peas. I had forgotten that the recipe also called for a small leek so it was handy that the allotment gate padlock had been replaced on Monday as promised and I was able to go round and harvest a leek.  And from that I was able to make 3 portions of pea and ham soup - out of cooking water, leftover gammon, a tin of peas and a homegrown leek. It felt like food for nothing!

Well actually, it was £3.75 for the gammon, from which we had a dinner for 4, a quiche for 4 and 3 portions of soup, and it was 50p for the marrowfat peas. Excellent for making use of ingredients and wasting nothing and even better for our pockets in these days of less income. 

Pea and Ham Soup (serves 2-3)

250ml water from a boiled gammon
300g tinned marrowfat peas plus liquid
1 small leek
Some pieces of cooked ham/gammon
2 tsp cornflour mixed into cold water
3 tsp mascapone cheese or a bit of grated Cheddar and a slurp of cream
Black pepper

Put the water, peas and leek into a large saucepan and cook for 20 minutes. Use a stick blender to blend until smooth then add the remaining ingredients and taste. Bring back to the boil and simmer a little longer if necessary to thicken or serve.

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