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A warming winter feast

Tasting

FRESH FROM THE SOIL  It’s refreshing to use ingredients like leeks that have been grown locally, and you actually have to wash off the soil from the vegetable before use.  Pic: istock

Tasting
Red Cabot

Samhain in the Celtic tradition always falls at summer’s end. It marks the end of the Celtic year and the start of a new one. Of course, it is now intermingled with the modern festival of Halloween - but this was a Halloween with a difference.
In our house, masks were worn as our turnips were carved and lit (Jack O Lantern) by Louis and Penny and the link between this world and the otherworld was at its strongest.
It was a time of feasting and celebration, a time to look inwards, and draw close, before the bounty of new year’s growth arrives. These feelings echo and reverberate in this modern world with Covid-19 lockdowns. We turn our minds away from more commercial activities and towards what concerns our immediate lives; family and friendship.
With no visiting other houses, this year we enjoyed bobbing for apples, carving the turnip with a scary candle in it, while selecting from various bowls blindfolded. Great craic enjoyed by all and it led to the following hearty feast.
Cooking a meal from scratch is a good activity, and may be therapeutic. One finds the layers of the day slowly wash away, from the process of washing, peeling, and cutting one’s raw ingredients. Using one’s hands and eyes to determine which way to cut, what to emphasis, what small adjustments may be required takes you away from the hurly burly of modern living. There is something in the process of starting with whole ingredients and preparing them to create a meal that soothes the soul and mind.

Chickpea Hotpot
At Halloween I cooked this dish to celebrate our harvest and use any warming ingredients I could find around the kitchen. It is also proof that one does not always need a recipe to follow from start to finish to make a meal. When I started cooking I did not know what the end result would be or where the meal would come from. Here is the result!

What you need:
>  1 x 400g chickpeas drained
>  1 x 400g tin Cannellini or Broad beans (or you can soak dried beans beforehand and cook them like us)
>  3 x medium white onion peeled and chopped
>  4 x garlic cloves skinned and rough chopped
>  200g ripe tomatoes
>  3 x leeks trimmed cut and washed
>  Seasoning, Olive or Rape seed oil, dried herbs and spices (whatever is available).

What you do next:
Begin frying your onions (we luckily had delicious fresh onions from cousin Eoin’s garden) with a good glug of oil over a low heat in wok or wide pan with high enough sides. When they are sweated softly, after about five minutes add the chunky garlic, never too small or it would get lost at this early stage.
Add the leeks cut and washed, thank you again Eoin (one can get so used to supermarket leeks one forgets you have to wash the real versions to remove real soil, yes real soil, remember that!).
Next, add your beans drained and rinsed if from a tin. Slow-cooked tomatoes work exceptionally with beans, I had a bag of organic tomatoes grown by a friend and recently given to us. Wash and halve each tomato so the centre eye is removable from the top of each tomato half with a knife. Rough chop because these are going to break down with slow cooking. Bring the pan to the bubble and let it cook away contentedly from 15 minutes. Season and add some mustard seeds, a touch of dried coriander and cumin powder from the cupboard, or whatever one can find.
A dollop of our pesto on top of these hotpots in the centre always goes a long way to contributing umami flavour to the end result.

Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.

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