Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Meal...part one

Though I'm not a Christian, we all know Christmas has evolved beyond its religious connotations, and so while I don't celebrate it, I do relish the chance to cook up a meal for my family. This being my first post, I'll attempt to do a little explaining before I launch into subject proper, namely, what I cooked for this Christmas. While I've toyed with the idea of setting up my very own food blog for a while, I never seem to work up enough motivation to actually do it. What made this time different was my sister's interest in documenting my food. It seemed a real waste to just let those pretty photos sit, and so, voila, here we are.

It is late now, and since I cannot vouch for my attention span, I'll post each course of the meal in an individual post, instead of lumping them together, lest I ran out of patience and this blog's short short life becomes frustrated by its very first posting. Without further ado, here comes the first course of my Christmas meal...


One thing about my cooking, I am no stickler for accurate measurements and weights. Beyond some basic ground rules for certain cooking, the rest is up to individual preference. Also, it is tiring and irritating to have to whip out the weighing machine for every little ingredient. However, I assure you [whoever is actually reading] that the recipes are completely do-able and easy to follow, and there will be no confusing '1 cup' measurements. Don't you always wonder, 'What cup? Your cup? My cup? Which cup?'


As much mixed beans as you want in your soup [keep in mind that they expand to roughly twice their dried size]. I used kidney beans, black eyed beans and lentils, basically what I had on hand. Roughly 3 handfuls. Soak at least 6 hours, preferbly overnight.

1 large yellow onion

1 smallish carrot

2 stalk of celary

As much honey baked ham as you like. Or bacon if you prefer, pan-fried first.

2 tablespoon tomato paste/chopped tomato

water/stock enough to cover ingredients.

1 bay leaf

Pinch of oregano

Salt and pepper

Firstly, it is really important to soak the beans for a good amount of time, as otherwise it would be impossible to get them soft enough later.

When you are ready to start your soup, drain and rinse the beans well, as the soaking liquid can be rather gross. Place the soaked beans in a large pot [this will be the soup pot], cover with water by at least 5 cm, and boil away. How long to boil depends on how soft you want your beans to be, keeping in mind that there's more simmering in store for the beans later. Boil them to death if you like your beans mushy, 10 - 15 mins if you still want to see them.

While the beans are boiling away, chop up the onion, carrot, celary and ham into cubes or whatever shape you fancy. Start the onions off in a pan with some oil first, around 10 mins, until they look tender. Add the rest of the veggies and stir away, until the onion starts to colour. Take off heat.

Once the beans are ready, drain them and dump in the veggies, the herbs and tomato paste. Put back onto stove and cover with enough liquid to come up to around 2 cm above the ingredients. Add more if you like it soupy, less if you like it creamy. Because the amount of ingredients vary, what I do is use part stock and part water. Packaged stock here comes in litre packets, so I get a packet, keep some for my Shepard's Pie [later], dump the rest into the soup, and top-up with water if it's too little. Alternatively, if you dislike the msg in instant stock and can't be bothered to cook your own, just use water. Let the soup come to a simmer, then let cook until desired tenderness. Takes around an hour until all the veg and beans are nice and soft

If you like your soup chunky, reduce the cooking time while the veg and beans still hold their shape and bite, and skip the next step. If you like your soup creamy, cook till really tender, let cool [or not, but be careful of exploding hot soup] then blend up around half of the soup, pour back in and heat up.

This soup is great for preparing ahead of time, so that one course is out of the way, and you can leave the blending to 10 mins before serving, when it is nice and cool. Taste and season, serve hot, with croutons, as all soups should be served.
* Recipe adapted from Carole Clements' Cookshelf Soups, 'Confetti Bean Soup' *

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