Here in Ireland we have had record low temperatures that have created chaos for this temperate climate culture. No snow tires (or tyres) here. Rock salt is rationed for densely populated areas and out here in the wilds of West Cavan we get â€˜grit’- a combination of loose chippings mixed with sand.
So even snowfalls of less than a foot can leave you stranded if you donâ€™t own a jeep with four wheel drive.
But for someone who loves to cook and likes the creative challenge of looking in the larder and seeing what you can make up with what you have on hand, these days mean a frenzy of cabin cooking. And lots of yummy fun.
My cast iron cooking pot comes into its own, because there is nothing like a stew or a thick (or what my friend Jane calls a ‘knife and fork’) soup to insulate you on the inside when the weather is subzero on the outside.
Soups should be slow cooked at a simmer and the aroma of seasonal vegetables and beans is tantalizing.
Country dwellers know the wisdom of having flour and dried beans and pulses in the cupboard in the winter.Â Iâ€™ll share what I magicked up on the stove when the temperatures fell to -11C this past week.Â And despite the thaw, there is more snow on its way to us.
What is also good about this soup is that the orange vegetables give you a warming visual cue.
Snowed Up Soup
You will need:
About 4 oz of pinto beans, soaked overnight when the forecast sounds grim
1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and diced
Vegetable stock cube/powder
Pepper and ground mixed spice to taste
Optional: Dried sea vegetable, e.g. spaghetti del la mer or wakame
If you are getting low on your green and leafy vegetables, have some dried sea vegetable in your cupboard to add to soups and stews. I added spaghetti del la mer. Seaweed will also give you a burst of calcium if your dairy supply is running low.
First thing in the morning, once I have thawed out our calor gas bottle with a hot water bottle, I cook up the soaked pinto or field beans.
Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of your pot.
Over a low heat, gently sautÃ© the peeled, sliced and diced vegetables.
Season generously with pepper and the ground mixed spice (the combination I use has cinnamon, clove, fennel, cardamom â€“ but curry powder would do in a pinch).Â Once the vegetables have been softened and the onion is nicely translucent, add the beans along with their cooking water.
Top up the liquid â€“ about 2 pints, but again that will depend upon whether you want more of a stew or soup consistency.Â Add some vegetable stock cubes accordingly to your favorite product’s recommendations.Â Add a good tablespoon of yeast extract. Add your sea weed, broken into about inch long segments.
If you donâ€™t have yeast extract, you may want to substitute soy sauce. If the larder has been diminished while you have been holed up then use salt. If you are adding some sea weed this will also give a salty tang so go easy on adding salt.
If bread is running low, a batch of cheese scones wouldn’t go amiss to make a filling, warming and extremely tasty meal.
Cheese Scones (and yes, you say it ‘Scawn!’)
1 lb self-rising flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp mustard powder
1 cup of butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 pint of buttermilk
Sift the dry ingredients and then cut in the butter until it’s a breadcrumb texture. Add the grated cheese. Make a well in the center and work in half the buttermilk. You want a firm dough, so judiciously add the rest of the liquid or add more to get a non-sticky dough. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Put the dough out on a floured surface. Either pat or roll the dough until it is 1/2 inch thick. Cut out your scones and space them so they have a bit of breathing space on the tray. Brush with milk (optional but nice). Bakes in 15 minutes. Butter while still warm. Yummy!