I finally made it to retirement and, as the saying goes, "If I'd known I was going to live this long I'd have looked after myself better", but here I am, I've made it. Time to put the feet up, do only what I want to and when I want to – in fact, that's what it said on the engraved tankard the staff gave me when I left work, or words to that effect; if only it were true.

Sure, I don't have to get up and go to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week but to be honest, I don't know how I managed to fit work in; it feels as if I never stop. People always asked if I would get bored when I retired and I used to say "no, work gets in the way of my life", little did I know how true that was.

Read more: Retirement

Food that evokes memories

This weekend (28th, 29th of Nov) has been a busy one, I made 4 Salami sausages, 4 Saucisson Sec (Fig 1), 12 links of Pork and Leek Sausages (Fig 2) and have started a large chunk of a dried Pork called Coppa (Fig 3), however, the food that had the most impact on me this weekend, is a simple Broth with Pease Pudding.

The taste of the Broth with the Pease Pudding evoked such memories of being back in my mothers' kitchen whilst she made, what was a cheap winter meal. I can remember her using a large pressure cooker without the weight on to boil the Ham and the absolute heavenly smell of the Broth cooking on her Raeburn cooking range. Even more so, I remember the taste of hot home made Ham and Pease Pudding sandwiches; whereby she took two thick slices of home made bread, buttered them and then spread hot Pease Pudding and Ham on them – so delicious and comforting. My memories were then transported around the kitchen, the colour of the walls etc. I can even feel the heat of the cooking range on my face – what fantastic memories of when I was 14 or 15 years old.

Only now, having cooked the Broth myself, do I appreciate the love, skill and attention to detail that went into what I always assumed was a simple meal.

The journey to this reverie started when, as an "off the cuff" decision whilst in the local butchers shop we purchased a 'Ham Knuckle'; this led to us also purchase some Pearl Barley and Split Peas with a plan to doing a broth and Pease Pudding dish – little did I know the journey it would take me on.

I have often made simple Broths using Bacon or Lardons, however, using a Ham Knuckle is something else altogether and is to be recommended. Added to this is the simple act of tying together a cheesecloth bag half full of split peas and dropping them in with the boiling Knuckle and allowing them to boil together for an hour or so – Alchemy happens, the Peas turn to ham flavoured paste (Fig 4) and the effect of the boiling water straining through the Peas results in a thickened sauce; no need for stock in this Broth.

Remove and defat/debone the knuckle and return to the pot; throw in some Potatoes, Swede Turnip, Carrots and Leeks, red lentils and a good handful of Pearl Barley then boil until the Barley is soft (Fig 5), serve with a good dollop of Pease Pudding on the side and chunky bread, delicious (try some Pease Pudding and Ham on the bread).

Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3
Figure 4 Figure 5  

Slow Cooker recipes?

I don't know about everyone else, but certainly in our home and within our sphere of colleagues, slow cookers are very 'de rigueur'. Everyone is discussing how they use these mini cookers to ease the burden of preparing meals whilst holding down a busy job.

There is a difference of opinion, some colleagues feel they are dangerous and won't leave the cookers cooking throughout the day, others think they are fantastic. I have to say, as recent proud owners of a small (for two persons) slow cooker, Jan and I are greatly impressed – especially when cooking those less costly, potentially tough cuts of meat.

I think using the slow cooker may turn out to be a winter thing rather than all year round, however, the quality of Boeuf Bourguignon, Lamb Casserole and other such meals that require long cooking periods has not suffered at all from being cooked in our slow cooker. I must also say, the smell of cooking when you come indoors from work is fantastic and the knowledge that the meal is ready to eat is great too.

Recently, Jan cooked some Pig Cheeks overnight with Carrot and Sweet Potato using English Stout as a cooking sauce, we divided the meal into two and took them to our respective offices to eat as lunch; apart from the questioning looks about 'why would you eat Pigs Cheeks'? Those who sampled our lunch asked for the recipe.

In my office, this started a discussion about me doing a special recipe section on the website with a focus on slow cookers – I tend to think just adjust the recipes to include very slow cooking for 6 or 8 hours.

What is the opinion of my readers, should I do a special section for slow cooking?

Next meal for us is that delightful Milanese stew Ossobuco, which is a veal stew made from the cross cut leg joint and includes the bone with the Marrowbone; Ossobucco in Italian means "Bone with a hole" which is how the joint should end up after eating the meal – anyone want the recipe?