Sunday, December 09, 2007

Winter warmers

It's cold here. It's dull, and it's rainy. In fact, the last few days it's rained so much I've expected there to be a man with a big boat collecting pairs of animals.

This morning, the heating wouldn't come on. Pilot light won't...light. Now, we've lived in this house 14 years (moved in five days before Christmas, must have been mad), and the heating has never been perfect. It rattles, it groans, and it occasionally throws a hissy fit and refuses to work at all. A few years ago, a friend of my brothers (who he now actually works for, so fingers crossed) came to fix the hot water tank. His verdict on the boiler was that he was amazed it was still working--he reckoned they don't usually last more than ten years, and we'd been in the house that long. Before that, it had been empty a year, and we had to get someone to fix the whole thing. He was dubious about how long it would last, too.

Also, in The House Where Nothing Works (I wouldn't mind so much if it was a 300-yr-old character cottage, but it was built in the 1960s, so it isn't even pretty), one of the garage lights has been broken for about five years. Today, Dad decided to fix it. So, on top of no heating, we had no electricity for an hour or so. Considering that the only working heater we had is--you guessed it, electrical, that was a cold, dark, boring hour.

So I made soup. Because we live in The House Where Nothing Works, we have alternate ways of doing everything. The hot water tank is gas fired, but has an electric-powered top-up. The oven is electric but the stove is gas (although the ignition is electric, how stupid is that?). With a candle for lighting (because there's no natural light, just a charcoal-coloured sky), I stood at the hob, absorbing heat, and cooked. Want my recipe? It's nummy, I promise.

Winter Warmer #1: Cheese and onion soup

Chop up three onions, fry them in butter, and when they're soft and translucent, chuck in a handful of flour and stir it all around until the flour has melted (or does it dissolve? Who knows). Add a can of chickpeas, three chopped potatoes, and a couple of pints of vegetable stock (I did make it with chicken stock once and it wasn't quite the same, but it's up to you). Throw in a few handfuls of grated cheese (something like cheddar, reasonably strong) and a couple of spoonfuls of cream cheese. You can also add seasoning like bayleaves, sage, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30-60 mins until the potatoes and chickpeas have softened and the soup has thickened up. You'll need to stir it now and then to keep the cheese from sinking and sticking to the bottom of the pan.

It's not a precise recipe. I tend to cook with howevermuch of whatever I've got in the house. If you want to reduce the calorie content a little, try cooking with iolive oil (okay, not much less calorific, but very good for you) and reduce the cheese content to just the cream cheese. It's still a nummy soup and very good for warming and filling you up!

Winter Warmer #2: Buy one of my Cat Marsters titles.

No, really. They're precisely formulated (unlike the above soup) to warm up up in fun spicy ways.

Winter Warmer #3: Buy a book, save a cat.

For a different kind of warm glowy feeling. Spike has been curled up smugly in his very own thick fur coat, the only one of us not freezing today. Other cats don't have thick fluffy coats or large quantities of top-quality cat food on offer, but if you buy one of my Christmas titles, you can help keep one warm this winter.

Winter Warmer #4: Richard Armitage.

Makes me warm, anyway.

Update: The heating has miraculously started working again--without even being touched. What a house.

1 comment:

  1. The soup sounds good. It's cold here today, but I'm trying to avoid the furnace.