True winter is upon us here in Austria and I have discovered the meaning of real cold. With temperatures stagnating in the negative digits and snow bathing the landscape in a blanket of white, it’s been difficult for me to stay warm, even with a multitude of toasty layers. Last week while skiing, the chilly fingers of Father Winter slipped through my ski-jacket and Underarmor shell to grasp at my (as my mother always put it) ‘thin chest’. Enough was enough!
I mentioned my dilemma to my beloved MIL (she’s really becoming a second mother to me – how lucky am I!), and she told me that the solution is very simple…Eat! According to her, winter is the time to chow down on carbs, root veggies, and (gasp!) fat. The body needs enough food to provide energy to be active in addition to keeping the core, and hence extremities, warm. Thinking about it, it makes total sense, animals bulk up to survive the winter and they have fur!
So, in keeping with MIL’s sage advise, I hooked myself up with a traditional ‘oldie but goodie’ from home – Peas Soup and Dough. Haven’t had it since I left the islands about 7 years ago and it was beyond delicious! Ironically, it’s the first dish that I haven’t wanted to alter; but of course, a few items are just not available here (i.e. conch, salt beef/pork). Still, with a little tinkering, it was just as yummy as the one Gran used to make all those years ago!
As mentioned, I was forced to make some modifications:
*I prefer dried peas, but canned peas may be used. If using canned, one can should be sufficient. Rinse the canned peas before using and omit the boiling step. If using dried peas but you forgot to soak them overnight, boil them for about 2 hours in a lot of water until tender.
**normally, salt beef, ham, and conch are used in this recipe but as I’m only able to access ham here, that’s what I used. Your favorite ham is fine, as long as it won’t fall apart during the cooking process. Also, I’d recommend using a ham that has a lot of flavor to assist in the flavoring of the soup. If you are lucky enough to have salt beef, use about 1/2 a pound and soak it overnight in a lot of water. Then boil the beef in a fresh pot of water for about 45 minutes or until tender. Use a bit of the boiling water to season your soup as well. If you have conch, beat it, boil it until tender, and then cube it.
***You’re going to want to use potatoes that hold well through long cooking but have enough starch content to add (as Gran puts it) ‘heft’ to a soup/stew. Irish potatoes are an example.
****A smooth dough ball is one that does not stick to your hands or surfaces when being manipulated. Note: water softens & flour stiffens dough.
Peas soup is a great way to keep one full for a long time. My mom used to call it ‘heavy food’. In fact, many of the foods we cook in the Caribbean may be described as ‘heavy food’ and may help you this winter. How about grits and cheese (may also add tuna salad), chicken souse with johnney cake or stew fish and grits. I doubt that you would find our type of fish in Austria, but their fish may do just fine. Good luck to you as you ‘fatten up for the winter’.
LOL, oh Lorraine, the memories are just flooding in while reading your comment, lol. Agreed, our traditional food is normally ‘heavy’ and I will be making a lot of it. I brought my grits with me (yay!) and fish is one of my fav proteins. Most of the fish sold here is ‘sweet-water’ fish which I’m slowly developing an appreciation for but if I’m willing to pay the cost, I can find a Red Snapper. Thanks for your good wishes!