A Finger on the Pulse


In keeping with a lot of cultures around the world, I have been cooking with lentils and pulses yesterday and today. Legumes, including beans, peas and lentils, are considered to be symbolic of money, and thus considered a harbinger of prosperity and good luck in the new year. Several of them resemble coins and the fact that they swell up when soaked in water also extends the analogy that the prosperity grows with time. Call me a bit cynical but I think also it could be that some plainer fare is welcome after the bingefest of Christmas.

In Italy they like green lentils and sausages, Germany like split peas, Japan has black beans and even the southern states of the USA like some black eyed peas with collard greens. In the Patmore household we like a bit of spicy dhal** or some soup. Both dishes are very economical, versatile, warming, comforting and easy. Perfect for this time of year.

Dutch Soup

I’ve been making this for many years. Why I decided to call it Dutch Soup is lost in the mists of time but it was a regular feature when my children were small and we didn’t have a lot of money – it fed six of us very well for less than a couple of pounds. It will double up and feed a crowd quite easily and although it doesn’t have many ingredients it is very tasty. I use the kind of sausage which is smoked, horseshoe shaped and comes individually wrapped but you could use any cooked sausage you like – good quality frankfurters work well here, or even leftover bangers. This is also quite hearty so the end result should fall somewhere between a stew and a thick soup.

To stretch it further you could serve some big hunks of buttered bread for dipping.

Serves four generously

1 large onion, sliced
dash of oil
250g yellow split peas
3 bay leaves
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 stock cube dissolved in 1.5 litres water
8 Charlotte or other salad-type potatoes sliced into thickness of a £1 coin
1 smoked sausage, sliced into thickness of a £1 coin
2 handfuls of spinach

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and gently fry the onion until softened and starting to colour.

Add the split peas, bay leaves and fennel seeds and stir for a few seconds then add the water and the stock cube and bring everything up to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the peas are just about soft and you can squash one easily between your finger and thumb. Keep an eye as they cook, stirring occasionally and add more water if you think they need it.

Add the potatoes and continue to simmer gently until they are tender.

Add the sausage slices and the spinach turn the heat as low as possible and allow the sausage to heat through thoroughly and the spinach to wilt. Serve with bread if using.

You can, of course, add any extra toppings you like. I don’t think cheese works here but maybe some finely chopped spring onions or a few chopped gherkins would be nice. Or some sliced hard boiled egg, maybe. Eggs work well with pulses.

**Due to me having some form of plague I haven’t had the energy to make any dhal yet.