My son didn’t want to go to school today on account of the fact that it was raining hard. He moaned and complained and contorted himself into shapes of agitation, but of course in the end, he had to go. The fact that he thinks rain should be a good reason to skip school is partly wishful thinking and partly a result of the wonderful weather we enjoy down here at the bottom of the African continent.
We don’t get snow, or typhoons, or hurricanes or whirlwinds or tsunamis or even thunder! We’ll never be the inspiration for a good Dwayne Johnson action movie. The most that winter in the Cape can throw at us is some icy cold wind coming in from the Antarctic, and storms that mostly occur on the sea, especially when colonialists are trying to land on the shore. The rain can come at you horizontally and diagonally all at once. No one has yet invented an umbrella strong enough to withstand a Cape rainstorm!
I absolutely detest being cold. I don’t like it one bit. My first reaction to snowy weather wasn’t to run outside and frolic and throw snowballs, it was actually to cry! While I was attending college in the States, I’d walk from one building to the next with tears streaming down my face because I hated the freezing cold air so much. I hadn’t come equipped with the right clothes because when you come from most places in Africa, you don’t need to don a wearable goose down duvet and stuff a hot water bottle down your pants to stay warm in the winter!
Crazy Americans would walk around in shorts and t-shirts in that unforgiving weather. There are actually people out there who love winter! If you’re one of them, I’m happy for you. Excuse me while I glue myself to the fire/heater/oven at the party and not move until it’s time to go.
I do however, love wintry food. I love stews and curries and casseroles and hot baked goodies that make all the glass on the windows steam up. This is what’s considered ‘slow food’ in foodie land. But when I need a quick winter fix, I make soup! Soups are damn good for you and damn delicious too! With just a few ingredients, you can make a meal for an army! Today I made one of my goto health boosting soups, and I’m now two bowls in, and I don’t feel any chill in my bones and my tummy is full and warm. Bliss!
My Baby Pea & Watercress Soup is packed full of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants and it also happens to be delicious! The recipe below is very versatile and you can change it up and add things to it, like your favourite type of smoked ham, or use baby spinach instead of watercress, for instance.
It makes a large pot of soup so you can freeze it, and it’s also pourable so you can put it in a thermos and sip on it throughout the day to keep warm!
Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Baby Pea & Watercress Soup
150g pancetta or your favourite smoky, diced bacon/ham
1kg frozen peas (baby peas are sweeter)
250g fresh watercress
500ml chicken or veg stock
1. Fry up the bacon pieces until it’s reached your level of desired crispy. (I like crunch. I also like to add a bit of vermouth towards the end to glaze the bacon with a lovely sweetness that adds another level to the profile of the soup!) Drain and set aside.
2. Heat up 500ml chicken stock (dilute a cube or whatever type of stock you like to use). When it comes to the boil, add in rinsed frozen peas (rinse the peas under tap water to remove excess ice water). Peas cook quickly so watch the pot.
3. Wash the watercress and throw the whole lot into the pea and stock pot. At this point, depending on how big your shoots are, you might have to add more boiling water, so keep it handy, but don’t put too much or your soup will be very watery. Taste the soup and adjust seasoning – maybe some more salt, maybe a bit of chili heat, a crack of pepper, it’s up to you what flavor you’re going for.
4. Blend the soup with a stick blender or in a food processor.
5. Serve with bacon bits and your favourite toasted bread. A great idea is to melt your favourite hard cheese on toasted bread and dip that into the soup; the salty creaminess complements the wonderfully herby, sweet, smoky flavour perfectly!