Ribollita

Veg boxes are a bit like allotments, in that one always seems to be lacking in something one month only to have a glut of it the next. I was lamenting the lack of greens over January but I am now inundated with Chard, Cime di Rapa, Cavalo Nero and Spinach and Spring Greens. One of my favourite soups sprang to mind, a fantastic peasant soup, cheap and wholesome and packed with nutritious greens.  If you had fresh tomatoes in your box this week, you could use them instead of tinned. Make sure you use proper rustic bread, preferably a bit stale, otherwise it will just dissolve. Also, invest in a good, peppery Tuscan olive oil. Riverford do a good one.

Ribollita literally means re-boiled or re-cooked in Italian and is meant to be re-heated. It tastes even better the next day!

Ribollita

Ribollita
2 red onions, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
3 sticks celery, trimmed
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Good Tuscan extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch ground fennel seeds
1 pinch dried red chilli
400 g good-quality tinned plum tomatoes
2 tins cannellini beans
300 g cavolo nero or chard, leaves, striped weight from the stalks
2 large handfuls good-quality sour-dough stale bread, torn into chunks
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Finely chop your onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Heat a saucepan with a splash of olive oil and add the vegetables to the pan with the ground fennel seeds and chilli. Sweat very slowly on a low heat with the lid just ajar for around 15 to 20 minutes until soft, but not brown. Add the tomatoes and bring to a gentle simmer for a few minutes.

Add the beans with a little of the water from the tin and bring back to the boil. Shred your cavalo nero and chard and stir in to the soup (it will look like loads, but don’t worry as it will cook down.) Season well with sea salt and pepper. When the greens have cooked into the soup add the bread. The soup should be thick but not dry, so add a little more water if you need to loosen it. Add plenty of olive oil – you want to achieve a silky, thick soup. Check seasoning.

Chard

Caldo Verde

Finally, for this week, my final cabbage recipe. Another hearty soup this time from Portugal, Caldo Verde literally translates as hot green, consisting traditionally of potatoes, a local kale and Portuguese spicy sausage. I have adapted it for cabbage, but you can only use the dark outer leaves so it does not lack its deep, famous green colour. This makes it a great use-up dish when using the paler greener inner leaves for slaw, or even for my Keralan cabbage Thoran recipe this week. But it obviously works very well with any kale or Cavalo Nero too.

When it comes to the sausage, it really is hard to find good quality Portuguese sausage such as Linguica, however good chorizos are easily available now a days – Unearthed do spicy or oak smoked or Waitrose do their own brand Iberico Chorizo which comes with the added bonus of being already diced.

Caldo Verde in Pan

Caldo Verde
Extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 potatoes, peeled and diced
200g good quality chorizo, diced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
ground black pepper to taste
1 large cabbage, the outer leaves only or couple of heads of kale or  Cavalo Nero, shredded and washed
Smoked paprika

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onion with plenty of olive oil for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chorizo and fry gently to release the fat. And potatoes and cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes more. Pour in water to cover, season well with salt and pepper and bring to a boil, and let boil gently for 20 minutes, until potatoes are soft all the way through. When the potatoes are ready, mash them into the broth. Add smoked paprika to taste and more seasoning. Meanwhile blanch your cabbage or kale into boiling, salted water for about three minutes. Remove and drain well, allowing to cool quickly. Add to soup and simmer. Stir in some more olive oil and serve at once.

Cabbage

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

Baked Eggs with Kale and Cream

It is not every day that I get invited to a book launch, let alone have my name on the cover of the book (albeit along with a few others names.) So, I thought I would spend a little time telling you about Riverford’s latest book, in their range of Riverford Companions “Autumn and Winter.”

No prejudice here of course, but this is a really nicely produced book packed with seasonal recipes to make right now. The emphasis was on quick and easy. It is meant to be a helpful guide to assist and support you to get your vegetables out the box and on the table fast.

The funny thing is that I actually wrote the recipes for the book nearly two years ago now so although it is still seasonal, it is a bit on the late side. I wondered whether I was even going to remember which recipes were mine but I am pleased to say that I did, and a few of them I just wanted to make again right now.

Ever since the weather turned colder, I have had a craving for all sorts of kale, cabbage and leeks but they have to be with cream. I have no idea what this yearning denotes – a lack of vitamin K and a need to fatten up for the winter? A prime instinct, that this is what I am going to need, to get me through the long, hard months ahead. I don’t know, but if it is true, this recipe is the one to satisfy on all counts.

Baked Eggs with Kale 1

Baked Eggs with Kale and Cream
Delicious with spinach as well.
300g curly kale or cavolo nero, stripped from its stems
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, very finely sliced
300ml double cream
1 pinch chilli flakes
4 eggs
120g gruyere or parmesan, grated
toast, to serve

Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/ gas mark 4.
Blanch the kale in a pan of boiling water (1–2 mins for curly, 2–3 mins for cavolo nero). Drain and squeeze out excess water once cool.
Fry the garlic in the oil for 1–2 mins. Add the kale and season. Stir in the cream and chilli and bubble for 3–5 mins, until thickened slightly.
Divide the kale between four ramekins, making a small well in the centre of each. Break an egg into each and sprinkle a little grated cheese on top.
Bake for 8–10 mins, until golden. Cook for less time if you like your yolk runny.

Kale