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Have you the courage to cook a pot of peas?
"That's a peculiar question, even from you," retorted a friend, not very kindly, I thought. "What kind of courage do you need for a pan of Pisum sativum?"
Unfazed by the Latin, I explained that there is nothing more quickly made, or delicious, than a bowl of (frozen) green peas that have had absolutely nothing done to them other than being poured into a pan, covered, and left on very low heat until done. Their taste, undiluted by the addition of any water - or salt - is exquisite; but do use garden peas (afunat gina). And give the pot a tiny shake here and there.
"And the courage?" prompted my friend, a touch irritably.
It takes a degree of boldness, I suggested mildly, to put such a dish on the table during the main course of a Shabbat or festive meal, when you have guests - largely because most of us are conditioned to believe that everything must be sauced, or at least seasoned, to be regarded as socially acceptable, or even eatable. But what a refreshing complement to rich or spicy dishes!
My friend, who prefers quick and unfussy cooking, brightened.
"I'm making Hawaiian chicken this Shabbat. I'll give your naked peas a try."
IN A secondhand bookshop I recently picked up How to Eat - the Pleasures and Principles of Good Food by British food writer Nigella Lawson. Its 526 pages, printed on thick paper, make it a weighty tome, but its earthiness and humor are alluring. Despite a recipe called "Pig's Bum" - which is actually kosher, and many that are not - this is still a fun book to read.
"I am not a chef," declares Lawson. "I am not even a trained or professional cook. My qualification is as an eater... I have nothing to declare but my greed."
Here are two recipes:
BUTTERNUT & PASTA SOUP
1â„2 Tbsp. olive oil
1â„2 small onion, chopped very finely
250 gr. butternut squash (dalorit), peeled and cut into 1-cm. cubes
60 ml. white wine or vermouth
600 ml. stock
1 bay leaf
60 gr. soup pasta
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the onion. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft, then add the squash and turn well for 2 minutes. Pour in the wine, let it bubble, then add the stock and the bay leaf. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Puree a ladleful, and return to the pan. Turn up the heat and add the pasta. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until the pasta's ready. Grate some Parmesan over the soup as you eat.
APPLE AND WALNUT CRUMBLE
2 medium-large cooking apples
25 gr. raisins
3 Tbsp. Marsala (or red grape juice, or dark rum), warmed
100 gr. plain flour
50 gr. unsalted cold
butter, cubed, plus more for greasing
60 gr. walnuts
45 gr. light brown sugar, plus
1 heaped Tbsp.
Heat the oven to 190 . Grease a pie dish with butter. Cover the raisins with the Marsala. Sieve the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until you get "bread crumbs." Chop or process the nuts very finely and stir them in; stir in the sugar. Put in the freezer.
Peel, core and slice the apples and put them in a heavy pan with the tablespoon of sugar and the marsala and raisins. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice. Put the fruit into the pie dish, cover with the crumble mixture and bake for about 25 minutes.
MY FRIEND Angela, who's been visiting us again from M nchengladbach, left her mark on our family eating in the form of this salad, made on the advice of a nutritionist back home who holds it as a super-healthy way to start any meal. It's certainly delicious.
Here's enough for two:
HEALTH STARTER SALAD
1 very small raw beetroot
1 raw carrot
a few drops olive oil
a little salt to taste
Peel the beetroot, but not the apple. Peel or scrub the carrot. Grate the beetroot on a fine grater and the carrot and apple on a coarser one into a bowl, and mix with the oil and salt. Mound onto two small plates.
Note: Interestingly, some people who cannot digest cooked beetroot can take it raw. Try other grated salad combinations, including raw cauliflower and raw zucchini.