Sunday, 23 November 2014

He was a good painter too!

Pea & Parsley Soup with Bacon

Carole's Chatter: Pea & Parsley Soup with Bacon

This Pea & Parsley Soup with Bacon was somewhat more refined than my Slow Cooker Pea & Bacon Soup.  This was thanks to seeing James Martin doing it on his show Home Comforts.

The first thing you need to do is to cook your ham hock – because I used the slow cooker I did it a day ahead – but you could use a stock pot on the stove and have it done in 3 hours or so.

For the ham hock:

Put one ham hock into your slow cooker along with an onion (quartered), some garlic infused olive oil (or some garlic), a carrot (thickly sliced), a couple of stalks of celery (thickly sliced), 3 sprigs of parsley, a sprig of thyme (I used ½ tsp of dried), 6-10 whole black peppercorns and a bay leaf.  Cover all that lot with water and cook on low until the ham hock is meltingly tender.

Take the ham hock out and when it is cool enough to handle take off the skin and any bones and then shred the meat (not too fine) and put aside for the soup.

Strain the liquid and discard all the bits.  This might seem a waste but the taste in them will have almost entirely gone into the broth.  It is this strained ham broth that you will use for the base of the soup.  I had quite a lot of it so froze quite a lot of it for later.

For the soup:

25g butter
750m Ham hock liquid (strained)
Equal quantities in volume terms of frozen peas and fresh parsley (approx 400g of each)
Cream – a small bottle – keep some for the garnish

So you melt your butter and then add the ham hock liquid, the peas and parsley and then your cream.  Bring it up to almost a boil and then blend it.

Heat it up again (without boiling it – that's the only tricky bit).

Serve it into a bowl with some of the shredded ham hock on top (but it won't float!) and drizzle with olive oil and cream.  I do advise you to get the ham up to at least warm so that it doesn't chill off the soup too much.

This was truly delicious and I'll be making it again – or something using a similar technique.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Patience is a virtue I can't wait to have!

The Cairn of Barnénez - Brittany, France

Carole's Chatter: The Cairn of Barnénez  - Brittany, France

We fell over this amazing site by complete accident.  We were driving around one afternoon on the other side of the river in Morlaix (in Brittany) and happened to see a sign to the Cairn of Barnénez .  Well I thought that it was probably just a small cairn of rock commemorating something but we thought we'd just have a look.

Carole's Chatter: The Cairn of Barnénez  - Brittany, France

And we found that this was a major historic site – in fact it is a designated National Monument.  There was an entrance fee – a relatively modest 5.50 Euros.  And it was well worth it.

Carole's Chatter: The Cairn of Barnénez  - Brittany, France

The Cairn of Barnénez is a huge neolithic mausoleum or burial chamber. It was built on a headland overlooking what is now the Bay of Morlaix. At the time it was built it is thought that the Bay was a fertile plain where the people lived.

Carole's Chatter: The Cairn of Barnénez  - Brittany, France

It is hard to imagine but they say that the cairn was built between 4500 and 3900 BC - that is before the pyramids. It is 75 metres long and 28 metres wide.  There are 11 burial chambers in it.  Some slabs in the cairn have been decorated with various symbols.

Carole's Chatter: The Cairn of Barnénez  - Brittany, France

This is the largest mausoleum of its period in Europe - in my mind it quite made up for not seeing the standing stones at Carnac. 

Carole's Chatter: The Cairn of Barnénez  - Brittany, France
The cairn fell into disrepair and was forgotten. In 1954 the area was bought by a civil engineering company and used as a quarry. It is amazing that it even lasted that long given people's habit of nicking stone from such things to build houses. Luckily its historical significance was finally recognised and the cairn was restored. I always wonder how much of this 'restoration' actually alters the original.  Luckily a cross section of the cairn remained exposed after the quarrying which gives you a better idea of what is inside.