Saturday, January 9, 2010

:: Recipe - Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup and Baking Powder Biscuits ::

I made a yummy and easy dinner for tonight - before I left for work! My uncle gave us a slow cooker for Christmas, and it was perfect timing because now that the holidays are over I am focusing on getting ready for baby, and an important part of that for me is stocking up my freezer.

When I was pregnant with Liam I spent the last month or so making big batches of whatever we were having for dinner and then freezing most of it. I loved opening the freezer door and seeing all the full containers stacked up in there, ready to go. (I know, I'm a  nerd.) It was so awesome, in the first month or so of getting to know ourselves as a family of three, we never had to worry about what was for dinner - there was always something in the freezer. I made a lot of soups and stews and sauces, so that for supper we only had to cook rice or noodles, or serve the main course with salad and bread.

This time around I will take a bit of time off work, but Spencer won't be able to take a month off like he did when Liam was born. Breakfast and lunch are relatively easy to keep stocked-up on, and easy for Daddy to make when he's here, but dinner is a little different. I'd also like to have enough to keep me going until I can re-stock for when I have to go back to work. I'm finding it hard now at eight months pregnant to finish work at five o'clock, (maybe) go to the store, come home, and then have to cook something. I imagine it will be more difficult with a newborn, so I'd like to have a full freezer then, too.

Here's a tasty slow-cooker soup that I made today and will definitely make again. I'm including my Mum's recipe for delicious baking powder biscuits, which are excellent with all kinds of soups and stews. They are perfectly light and flaky, and eaten hot out of the oven and split in half (they always split perfectly without a knife) with melted butter is a treat.



:: Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup ::

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 package of bacon (~8 slices) cooked until desired doneness, and crumbled (I happened to buy the 50% less salt variety, which I would recommend for this recipe)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 or 4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 1/4 cups dried split peas, sorted
  • 2 cups Farmer's Sausage or lean ham, diced
  • 1 red pepper or a few carrots or a combo, diced (to = 1 cup)
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • ground black pepper
  • 6 cups of boiling water, or hot stock, or a combination
  • 1 cup hot milk
This recipe is arranged in layers in the slow-cooker, without stirring. You only stir it once it's finished.

Directions:
  •  Cook the bacon strips in a cast iron frying pan until it's as crispy as you like it for eating. I cut my strips in half so that they fit in the pan better. Remove the fat as you go, but keep it. When the bacon is done (I like mine crispy) set it aside on some paper towels to drain. When it's cool chop it up; it will be the garnish for the soup. I debated putting the bacon in the soup, but I don't like the rubbery texture of bacon when it's been cooking in soup all day. Leave a little of the fat in the pan and saute the onion, celery, and garlic on med-low heat until soft and transparent. 
  •  Cooking these vegetables first removes some of the harshness from their flavours (especially garlic and onion) and cooking them in bacon fat (as opposed to olive oil or butter) gives the soup a hearty smoky bacon-flavour without being greasy at all.
  •  Meanwhile, sort the split peas and toss out any pesky little rocks or funny-looking peas, and put them in the bottom of your slow-cooker.
  • Layer the diced ham or Farmer's Sausage on top of the split peas. Don't stir! Then comes the onion mixture on top of the sausage, and then the diced carrots or red pepper (or a combo), and then the bay leaves and lots of black pepper.
  • Then you pour over top of everything either boiling water, or a mixture of stock and water. I used one stock cube (for 2 cups of stock) and the other 4 cups just boiling water from the kettle. The stock cube I use is a vegetarian chicken stock (I know that's an oxymoron, but it's my favourite one).
  • Set the dial to high, and cook for four or five hours until everything's tender and the split peas have magically turned to mush. I went to work, and when I came home the house smelled amazing! Heat up the cup of milk until it's hot, and then add it to the soup and stir it in.
  • I served it garnished with chevre and some of the bacon bits. Fresh chopped mint is divine on split pea soup, but I was forgetful when I went to the store yesterday. Oh well. I also tasted the soup at the end to see if it needed salt, but it definitely did not. There is salt in stock, and also in either ham or pork sausage, and the bacon and cheese on top are also very salty, so no salt for this one - it wasn't bland at all without it.

:: a close-up of the soup with the bacon and chevre garnish ::

:: Baking Powder Biscuits ::

I grew up with these as a dinner-time staple, and I still make them all the time to go with soups and stews.

Ingredients:
  • 1 3/4 cup flour*
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup of butter, cold
  • 2/3 cup milk
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 450°F. Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together with a fork. The sugar doesn't really make the biscuits sweet, but keeps them tender. 
  • Drop the cold butter in cubes into the dry ingredients,  and then blend it in with a pastry cutter until the butter chunks are the size of coarse oatmeal or split peas. 
  • At this point, depending on what kind of dish you are serving the biscuits with, you may want to add 1/2 cup of grated cheese. Old cheddar is fine, but fresh parmesan is amazing! 
  • Stir in the milk with a spoon until almost all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  • With floured hands, mix the dough in the bowl until all the dry ingredients are incorporated and you have one big lump of dough; usually only about 10 or 15 seconds of kneading.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured board, and roll flat with a floured rolling pin to about 1/2" thick.
  • Cut with a metal biscuit-cutter or a nicely-sized drinking glass. Place on a cookie sheet on parchment, or don't bother if you have non-stick sheets. They will be floury so won't really stick. Re-roll the dough until it's all shaped into biscuits. There's always one left at the end that won't fit into a cutter, and I call it "The Lumpy One".
  • Bake at 450°F for about 12 minutes.
  • Serve these babies piping hot. They split open easily with your bare hands. I always put a little pat of butter on the bottom half, and then replace the biscuit "lid" so the butter will melt faster before I spread it around. These are unbelievably tender and flaky. The only thing I ever add is cheese, and I don't even do that very often. They are so good on their own - why mess with a good thing?
* In the interest of better health, I have tried making these with part whole-wheat flour. I had a few goes at it with different amounts, and really you can only substitute about 1/4 cup white flour for ww flour. They lose their flakiness when you add a heavier flour, so I don't bother anymore. I think of them as a treat!

Bon Appétit!

1 comment:

Jess said...

Sounds yummy, and gluten free, yay. Maybe Avery would like this for some lunches.
Seems risky subbing the white flour for rice, damn.
Love you, friend. xx