Gumbo!

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Gumbo-in-the-making using the Christmas turkey carcass...

Our family has its main, heavier meal of the day in the evening. Even eating a relatively light meal in the middle of the day conjures the tendency for my husband and I towards a sleepy nap as the digestion surges and warmth spreads round the body. 

And, let's face it, as retirees, we have generally not expended enough energy to warrant a full- blown three courses! So we often have a salad of some kind. Not the Sunday-evening sort of my childhood which was a floppy flat lettuce leaf or two and a few slices of tomato and cucumber together with a slice of ham or the special treat of a spoonful of tinned salmon dressed with malt vinegar and salt. Nowadays we have a tremendous choice so that we can enjoy the benefits of avocado, coleslaw, a whole exciting range of British meats and pies, Italian hams, German sausage, French cheese. Chutneys, mayonnaise and flavoured oils all add variety and interest to what could potentially be a boring plate.

A lot of people I know feel that a salad is not filling but there is nothing to say you may not enjoy a healthy slice of wholemeal bread and butter with it or a small jacket potato. A helping of potato salad is always a treat and its benefits outweigh the calorie count. The point is to eat a sufficient amount to stave off hunger until the main meal five or six hours later. And If the stomach is not overloaded there is far more chance you will feel able to move around freely and avoid that sluggishness that can only muster enough spare energy to operate a remote TV control for the rest of the afternoon!

Something on toast is always a good quick standby and poached or scrambled egg, cheese or baked beans are great alternatives. I note all the 'trendies' are consuming 'smashed' (mashed?) avocado on toast as their go-to light health-fix food.

When the weather is particularly bleak in winter, soup is the best! I cannot comment on any bought varieties as I have always made my own. They are quick and easy if you have a pressure cooker and the gallonage one session can turn out is quite impressive! This means that each batch can be divided up and popped into the freezer for an even quicker meal another day. The list of ingredients is too huge and varied to note down. Meat, pulses, vegetables. All can be cooked separately or in combination.

It's a joke in my family and basically true that I can never produce the same soup twice. That's because I generally use seasonal vegetables in whatever quantity is to hand, plus often  a few additions of split peas or lentils. Maybe rice of any description or cous-cous. Tins of chick- peas, mixed bean salad or even baked beans can all be shot in at the end! Seasonings are dried mixed herbs if no fresh is available from the garden and a couple of good quality stock cubes. 'Mother's Gumbo' is always anticipated with great interest, comment and enjoyment as you might imagine!

So in summary, adjust your midday meal to energy output if you want to keep a reasonable waistline. It's pretty obvious that a long gardening session or cleaning the car or house will expend more energy than reading or watching TV so try to bear this in mind when you sit down to eat.

 Recipe/ Ingredients:

About a tablespoonful of Rapeseed oil, two medium carrots, two medium potatoes, mushrooms (if liked), medium onion, two quality stock cubes. A good pinch of  mixed herbs such as Italian or Herbs Provence. You probably will not need salt but may like a few twists of the black pepper mill at the end.

 Method:

In a large pan gently soften the chopped and sliced onions and carrots in the oil before adding  cubed potatoes and sliced mushrooms. Cover with hot water from the kettle and add    stock cubes. Simmer until cooked  through.

 To this basic mixture you can add almost anything you please. Chickpeas for nutty                   crunchiness, baked beans for a tomato taste. Mixed beans for hints of colour.

If you think ahead a little and can remember, rinse red lentils until the water runs clear and steep overnight in water. They will plump up beautifully and should be added with the stock. These will break down in the cooking process and thicken the soup.

Of course, with a pressure cooker you just shove the lot in, bring to pressure for about ten minutes and hey presto! Super nutritious soup in no time at all and at virtually no cost.

As I said, my efforts are termed 'gumbo' and it's anybody's guess at what it might contain so if you have half a cabbage, a couple of courgettes or a potato, add them in. See what happens. You may just create the perfect tea-time treat!

                     Granny Bonnet

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Who says salad is boring?