Saturday, 10 January 2009
Winter's Magic Gift . . .
A pretty brook was running at play
With little Jack Frost on a cold winter's day.
It stopped to rest at the foot of a hill
Making a pond all quiet and still.
"Aha!" said Jack Frost, "Now isn't that nice?"
And quickly he turned the water to ice.
On Thursday evening as we drove home from the church, the fog was so thick that we could barely see our way. We drove as slowly as we could through the winding lanes that lead to our cottage, up hill and down and around, the hedgerows hugging our car and the dense fog weaving a spell about us. I don't think I have ever seen the fog this thick in the eight odd years I have been over here. We were very glad to finally arrive home safe and sound. It had seemed like a perilous journey, fraught with mystery and the fear of the unknown . . .
Yesterday morning I awoke to find that Jack Frost had arrived during the night and painted the world around me in a magic fairyland of crystal.
Every single leaf, every branch, every blade of grass was covered in sparkles, built upon sparkles, the most magical frost of all . . . a hoar frost.
What a beautiful fairyland!! As the sun slowly wove it's way up into the sky, I looked out over the orchards behind us from one of our upstairs windows and the rows of trees twinkled as if made of glass. Walking about the garden the air was filled with magic, each tender leaf caught in a tiny glass case . . . each branch too, caught in a tiny prison of crystalline glass.
A spiders web hanging against the gate, each slender thread etched as if in glass, magically woven as by the winter fairies and hanging there so dainty and beautiful . . .
As I walked to work I could not help but stop and stare at the wonderland surrounding me. The air was filled with the sound of the tinkling of a million crystal bells as the crystalline beauty of my surroundings wove their magic spell around me. I was walking to work in a fairyland . . . winter's gift to me.
Another bit of magic wove it's way into my heart yesterday as well . . . my third grandson Joshua Ramsay made his debut in the world. Weighing in at 6 pounds 3 1/2 ounces, with a full head of beautiful red hair, he arrived last evening at 9:44 pm. Imagine . . . in years to come I will be able to tell him about how the winter fairies ushered in his welcome . . .
Brrrr . . . It was so cold yesterday I made us a nice pot of soup from a ham hock that I had in the freezer. This will warm any innards on a cold winters day. My mother always used whole peas to make this delicious soup. I prefer to use split peas myself. She always put a carrot in and a potato, I expect to help absorb any excess salt that the ham might have held. Personally, that salty potato was always my favourite bit, and I confess . . . it still is!
*Ham and Split Pea Soup*
Serves 4 to 6
This was always my favourite soup when I was growing up and remains so to this day. It requires very little effort and more or less makes itself. It also freezes very well.
1 ham hock, or leftover bone from a roasted ham
(make sure there are lots of meaty bits still clinging to the bone)
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot peeled, sliced in half lengthwise
and then cut in half again, so that you have four pieces
1 large potato, peeled and cut into four large chunks
1 bay leaf, broken in half
1 tsp of summer savoury
(if you cannot find summer savoury,
use a combination of marjoram and thyme)
Freshly ground black pepper
8 cups of boiling water
2 cups split peas (I prefer the yellow ones myself,
but you could also use green ones if you prefer)
Put all the ingredients into a large pot on top of the stove and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, skim off any scum that may rise to the top and then partially cover and simmer for an hour or so, until the peas are quite soft and the meat is falling off of the bone.
Remove the ham hock from the pot. Discard the skin, any fat and the bone. Cut the meat into large chunks and put it back into the pot. Skim any fat off the top of the soup that you can. Fish out the bay leaf and discard. Taste and adjust seasoning if required. You may need salt, but I more often find that I don’t. I do like to give it a healthy grinding of black pepper though.
Spoon the hot soup into heated bowls, trying to give each person a piece of potato, carrot and some meat. Serve immediately.