Zuppa d’Aosta

So on to cabbage recipe two. This is one of the oddest soups ever. It comes from Aosta which is in Northern Italy, right up high in the Alps, so as you would expect it is very hearty soup and typically packed full of carbohydrates, bread and cheese. Like Fondu, Raclette or Tartiflette and other mountain recipes, it is affectionately known as rib-sticking, the dictionary definition being- to last long and fortify one well; [for food] to sustain one even in the coldest weather.

Obviously there is nothing strange about that, if you live in an extremely cold climate, which of course in London, we don’t. But what is a little extraordinary about this soup is that it is baked, and then what tips it over the edge of unusual recipes, is the combination of stale bread, loads and loads of cheese and cabbage along with anchovies! The anchovies act as an amazing sort of seasoning, which brings this whole soup into a world class of its own so don’t be tempted to leave them out.

Fontina

I first made Zuppa d’Aosta at the River Café and it even features in their first book. Jamie Oliver rewrites it by adding loads more ingredients including the quite nice, but I think unnecessary addition of bacon. Good, strong bread is essential – I used Gail’s Sourdough, the cheese – should strictly be Fontina d’Aosta but even I struggled to find this, having to make do with a Fontina from Alpeggio (which describes the region rather than the town), which I got from Ocado.  Another place to try, if you are in Wimbledon on a Saturday morning, is the wonderful Vallebona,  Please do go,  if you have not been, because you will find the most amazing selection of mainly Sardinian delights, in the most unlikely setting of an industrial car-park.

If, however you just can’t find any Fontina, another mountain cheese will do such as Gruyere, Emmental or Gouda. Strange or not, as the weather turns colder,  this soup is guaranteed to warm you up.

Zuppa D'Aosta in Bowl

Zuppa d`Aosta
1 savoy or other hearty cabbage, Cavalo Nero or Kale works too
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf stale sourdough or ciabatta bread
large garlic clove peeled and halved
10 anchovy fillets
250g Fontina cheese
2l chicken stock, can be made up from good quality stock cubes
100g parmesan freshly grated

You will need a casserole or saucepan that can be put in the oven.
Preheat the oven to moderate 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Remove the leaves from the cabbage heads one by one and cut out the thick stems from each leaf keeping the leaves whole. Use a mixture of the dark outer leaves and brighter green inner leaves. (The leaves are traditionally kept whole but you can roll them up and shred them, the advantage being that it makes the soup easier to eat.) Blanch the cabbage in boiling salted water for 1 minute then drain well. Cut the bread into slices on an angle to give them as much surface area as possible. Cut off any very tough exterior crusts. Toast the slices on both sides and rub with the garlic. Cut the anchovy fillets into slithers lengthways. Slice the Fontina into slivers. Bring the stock to the boil and season it.
In your casserole or pan make a first layer of cabbage and season with salt and pepper. Place 4 or 5 anchovy slithers evenly spaced on top, then a layer of Fontina followed by one third of the toasted bread. Sprinkle over some Parmesan and add stock to cover this layer. Make a second layer in the same way and then a third finishing with a top layer of bread, sprinkled with the last of the Parmesan. Make sure the stock just covers the top layer.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown on top.

zuppa d'aosta in bowl 2

Keralan cabbage & Carrot Thoran

I don’t know how it happened but I am overrun with cabbage this week. I had accumulated not one, but three cabbages in the fridge, so I decided this week to give you not one, but three cabbage recipes.

The first Keralan Cabbage and Carrot Thoran, is a recipe that I adapted for Riverford Companion – Autumn and Winter Veg and cooked once again at Simon’s SuperClub last week in St Mary’s Putney. I served it up with my Courgette, Aubergine and Red Pepper Curry and Coconut Cauliflower Rice but you can eat it just on its own, with rice or with some poppadoms.

It is a dry, vegetable and coconut curry from Kerala and you can add all sorts of vegetables. As always I felt the need to change the recipe very slightly, even though it was my own! I cut out the dried red chillis as I felt the birds eye green ones made it hot enough, but if you like it spicy, by all means add some more. If you can’t be bothered with fresh coconut, look for flaked, dry or even toasted coconut (not desiccated) in the baking section of large supermarkets or health food shops.

Cabbage Thoran

Keralan cabbage Thoran
3 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10 dried curry leaves
2 tsp cumin seeds
30g fresh root ginger, finely grated into a paste
30g fresh garlic, finely grated into a paste
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
250g/9oz hispi, savoy or pointed spring cabbage (or spring greens), shredded into 5mm pieces
2 carrots, Julienned
2 fresh green birds-eye chillies, sliced into very thin rounds, with seeds
100g fresh shaved coconut, or dried flaked coconut
Fresh Coriander, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or Wok set over a medium heat, and, when hot, add the mustard seeds followed by the curry leaves, cumin seeds and turmeric. Stir for about 30 seconds, and then add the ginger and garlic paste, salt and black pepper and fry for 30 seconds.
Stir in the cabbage and carrots and cook, covered, over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, adding a splash of water if they start to stick to the pan. Add the coriander and grated coconut and serve.

Savoy Cabbage with Parmesan, Balsamic and Prosciutto

Finally for this week, the simplest recipe of all. I never thought of eating Savoy cabbage raw but the combination of flavours in this recipe are really sublime. This recipe is one that we used to serve at The River Café and famously comes from Modena, the home of Balsamic vinegar and also fabulous Parmesan from Emilia-Romagn.

 
It is one of those recipes which somehow tastes so much greater than its sum of parts. Having said that the ingredients must be super good. Obviously, first of all a lovely, fresh savoy cabbage and then tip top quality Parmesan Reggiano, really good, aged balsamic and a really tasty, peppery, Italian olive oil. Finally of course the prosciutto should be top quality too. I recommend some from San Daniele, just a little further north-east from Modena which produces some of the best prosciutto in the world.

Savoy cabbage in Bowl

Savoy Cabbage with Parmesan, Balsamic and Prosciutto
Also good with other cabbages or even fennel.
Serves 4
½ a savoy cabbage, sliced very finely
2 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp good Italian Extra Virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A chunk of parmesan Reggiano slivers
Thinly sliced prosciutto or other ham, to serve

Mix the olive oil and balsamic vinegar together and season well. Add the shredded and mix well. Shave or crumble in the parmesan. Serve with the prosciutto.

Savoy cabbage