Pasta e Faggioli

When I saw the fresh Borlotti beans on Riverford’s website, I just had to have some. I had difficulty with growing mine this year on the allotment. Too cold, too wet, whatever! It was it was a great disappointment, especially after a bumper harvest last year. Never mind, Riverford sent me a huge, lovely bag full. They are so much nicer fresh than dried or tinned. All fat and plump and creamy inside. I decided to use them for two recipes this week. The first is a classic Pasta e Faggioli which literally means Pasta and Beans – it always sounds so much better in another language. This is a real peasant dish with inexpensive, rustic ingredients but a double helping of carbohydrate to keep you fuller, longer.

Borlotti Beans in a pan

How to cook Fresh Borlotti Beans
store
Keep in their paper bag in the fridge until you are ready to cook them. They should keep for at least a week.

prep
Split open the pods to get to the beans inside. No need to soak before cooking.

boil simply
Put the shelled beans in a pan with just enough cold water to cover. Add a clove or two of peeled garlic as sprig of rosemary (tightly tied in string or an elastic band so that the flavour escapes but not the leaves) and maybe a fresh red chilli. Boil for 20-30 mins until soft. Add a little more water if needed. Just before the end of the cooking time, add a good glug of olive oil. mush up the garlic cloves and season well.

Pasta e Fagioli in a bowl

Pasta e Faggioli
There is no need to add the bacon if you are vegetarian or the parmesan.
Extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
150g smoked bacon, thinly diced
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 medium ribs celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp tomato puree
Chicken stock or good quality chicken stock cubes
1 cup of cooked Borlotti beans
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, very finely chopped
3/4 cup dried pasta, such as macaroni or ditalini
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the pancetta and cook until crispy and the fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, celery and rosemary and increase the heat to medium; cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Add the tomato puree and cook for a minute more. Add a litre of chicken stock and bring to the boil. Season well with salt and pepper. Add the dried pasta to the pot and stir to incorporate. Turn the heat up to a gentle boil and cook until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on the type of pasta you used. Add the cooked beans and check seasoning. Drizzle each portion with a touch of extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with more cheese, if desired. I think the flavour gets better if you leave the soup for a while but it will keep drinking up the stock so you may need to let it down a bit again.

Borlotti beans in shell

Ham Hock, Cannellini Bean and Runner Bean Soup

I started this week with a small veg box (less roots) and being the time of year, I was confronted with yet more runner beans. I hate to sound a little dismayed but sometimes a particular vegetables begins to get you down. It is not that I don’t like runner beans, it is just two things that upset me. Firstly that I feel that runner beans are usually best when really fresh just lightly boiled or steamed with a little butter but that does not make a very exciting blog post. Secondly, it is very hard to find really good recipes with runner beans that justifies the extra work rather than just boiling or steaming them and serving them with a little butter. Whatever you do decide to do with your runner beans, make sure you take the time to quickly run a peeler down each side of the bean to remove any stinginess before you cut them up. This little tip improves their texture tenfold.

Peeling Runner Beans

Believe it or not, I go to great lengths to think up recipes which I feel are not just an excuse for using up a vegetable. I am very determined that every recipe that goes in this blog is something that you are really going to want to eat. Or at least something that I am really going to want to eat. I was thrilled with my first idea for a Salad Nicoise with runner beans, favourably substituting the traditional French beans. But I looked out the window and it was pouring, literally bucketing it down. Not salad weather I thought, I will have to try harder. More warming, comforting soup weather. We all need comforting when August feels more like winter.

What I love about this soup is that it is supper quick. I have written about the joys of ready cooked, pulled ham hock before and here it is combined with lots of lovely vegetables, cannellini beans, pasta and runner beans. I really feel the runner beans are not an afterthought, but somehow belong in this recipe.

I got a complimentary bunch of basil in my box which you could whiz up with a little olive oil and add to your soup if you like but a little grated parmesan is my favourite addition. Apart from that, your only other decision is what pasta to use. I opted for the very pretty looking Mafalda Corta which is from Campania in Italy but I found in Waitrose. In the past I used anything from Orzo to alphabet pasta or broken spaghetti. I have got to say that it was most definitely a perfect meal to cheer you up on a very wet summer’s day.
If you want to cook your own ham hocks, place them in cold water, bring to the boil, then add a carrot, onion, leek and stick of celery (all chopped in half), some thyme and white pepper-corns. Simmer for a couple of hours until you can pick the hocks up and the meat falls from the bone.
To adapt for vegetarians, exclude the ham hock and use vegetable stock or water.

Ham Hock soup with Parmesan

Ham Hock, Cannellini Bean and Runner Bean Soup
180g ham hock, cooked and shredded
1 litre chicken stock or use good quality stock cubes (or use the liquid from cooking the hocks)
2 carrots peeled and sliced into 5mm thickness
1 large onion peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery sliced into 5mm lozenges
1 small leek shredded
A handful of runner beans
A tin of cannellini beans drained
80g dried pasta
Olive oil
Wash the vegetables. Then in a large pan add the olive oil, carrot, onion, leek and celery season with salt and pepper. Sauté for five minutes until they start to soften but without any colour.
Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Check seasoning and if it needs salt add some now. Add the pasta and cook as per packet instructions. Meanwhile peel your runner beans down each length with a peeler. Top and tail the beans and then cut diagonally into thin strips. When the pasta is done, add the ham-hock, runner beans and cannellini beans and bring to the boil. Cook until runner beans are done. Check seasoning. Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil, parmesan or basil oil.

Veg for Ham Hock Soup

Gazpacho

Salad in a bag

I started this week with a salad bag which had two fat red peppers, a couple of baby cucumbers and some cherry tomatoes, two lovely baby gem lettuce and some cherry tomatoes and I immediately thought – soup!.  What with the sweltering weather this week, of course it had to be cold soup and nothing is more refreshing for lunch on a hot day.

Gazpacho is nothing more than a liquidized salad and you can add all sorts of different ingredients from lettuce to radishes to celery but the basics are red peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. I like to add a small red onion and one garlic clove but be careful because raw onion and garlic, if added too enthusiastically, can overpower the other vegetables. My only other addition apart from salt, pepper, Spanish olive oil and vinegar is a red chilli.

Gaz Salad

So simple, so quick, so delicious and so good for you. Just make sure you take the time to peel the vegetables before liquidizing to get a nice texture. You need a really efficient peeler for this so make sure you invest in a good one with a sharp edge. So many times I see people struggling away with a completely blunt peeler. I like the D shape ones best but if you can’t find a basic one then OXO always seems to make good equipment.

The balance of vinegar is important but just add a little at a time. It should be gutsy and not bland. I use a blend of half-half red wine vinegar to sherry vinegar. You can find some very good sherry vinegar in the supermarket which is worth the money, but for the red wine vinegar you can just go for the cheapest. Finally, it must be very cold. Add an ice cube or two when liquidizing if you are in a hurry.

Gaz in a Bowl Small

Gazpacho

1kg really ripe tomatoes

2 Red Peppers, peel of as much skin as possible with a peeler, de-seed and roughly chop

2 baby or one large cucumbers, peeled and roughly chopped

1 very small red onion, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove

1 fresh red chilli, peeled and seeds removed

A generous glug of extra virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish

A generous glug of sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar (I like to use half/half)

Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make a small cross on top of each tomato with a sharp knife.  Blanch the tomatoes by placing them into a pan of boiling water for a few minutes.  Remove them and refresh in cold water.  Remove the skins.  Add all the other ingredients and either puree in a liquidizer or simply use a hand held blender.  Whiz until completely smooth.  Check seasoning and add more salt, pepper or vinegar to taste.  Chill in the fridge and serve very cold.

Braised Summer Greens with Pulled Ham Hock, Broad Beans, Peas & Lentils

I am very excited about peas in salads at the moment, especially baby fresh, uncooked ones. They are like a little crunchy explosion in your mouth. My pea harvest at my allotment has been particularly good this year and some have even managed to make it to the table. In past years the entire harvest has gone straight in the kids mouths. Anyway, back to this week’s box – summer greens and broad beans to use up, I came up with this rather successful recipe. Not quite salad, not quite a side, not quite soup, we ate it as a main and it was very enjoyable. As always with my recipes, it is easily adaptable and any greens would do including chard, kale or any sort of cabbage. You may have to adapt the cooking of the greens with a tougher variety of green such as kale but this method of cooking greens with olive oil and garlic is my favourite and is delicious just on its own.

I am a great fan of ready pulled ham hock. Although I know it is an easy enough to make your own and you end up with all that lovely ham stock, anything that saves a little time in the kitchen, helps. You can now buy it quite readily from good supermarkets or indeed, Riverford do their own.

When it comes to lentils for salads the ones from Le Puy in France are the most superior. They hold their shape and texture far the best and although you may see cheap imitations they are never as good. Merchant & Gourmand stock some fine ones and although they also do a ready cooked variety they are never as good as cooking them yourself.

With the weather as it is this June it is hard to know whether you want to eat salad or soup – well, this recipe really can be either, add some lettuce and you have a salad, add some stock and you have soup. I am always amazed how much the two can have in common.

Braised Summer Greens with Lentils, Broad Beans etc

Braised Summer Greens with Pulled Ham Hock, Broad Beans, Peas & Lentils

1 packet of summer greens

100g of cooked broad beans (boiling water for 2 minutes and refresh in cold)

A handful of fresh shelled peas or frozen

50g Puy lentils

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 cloves of garlic, very finely sliced

1 packet pulled ham hock

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Shred the spring greens finely and wash well. Do not remove too much of the water. Put the lentils in a saucepan with plenty of cold water and cook gently for about 15 to 20 minutes until tender. Drain off some of the water, but not all. Stir in the mustard and add a glug of good olive oil and season with salt to taste, whilst they are still warm. Heat a large saucepan with a good glug of olive oil. Add the very thinly sliced garlic and cook until the garlic is golden brown. Add the greens and sauté for a few minutes until the greens are tender. Season with salt to taste. Meanwhile shell the peas and slip the broad beans out of their skins. Mix the lentils with the greens and the ham hock. Check seasoning. Heap into bowls and scatter with peas and broad beans and serve.

Broad beand shelled

Roast Ramiro Pepper, Chickpea & Coriander Soup

Finally for this week a warming soup, because although it is June, I am absolutely freezing! I love this soup because along with some nice lovely fresh bread, it is a meal in itself and it is so easy to make. You start by roasting the veg in the oven and there is none of the usual hours of chopping. Just roughly cut up the veg, chuck it in the oven and before you know it, it is done. I often cook this for Simon’s SuperClubs or for Riverford lunches because it is so simple and so tasty.

Ingredients for Red Pepper & Chickpea Soup

Roast Ramiro Pepper, Chickpea & Coriander Soup

3 or 4 Ramiro Peppers

2 Red onions (peeled & quartered)

4 cloves of garlic (peeled)

1 Fresh red chilli

3 tsp. ground cumin

Extra virgin olive oil

1 tin chickpeas

Small bunch coriander (roughly chopped)

1 to 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C. Cut the peppers and chilli in half and remove the seeds and stalks. Add the peeled and quartered onions and the garlic. Sprinkle with cumin and salt and drizzle with lots of olive oil. Cover with tinfoil and put in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove the foil, stir well and return to the oven to roast for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and tip into a saucepan. Cover with water, but only just. Add the chickpeas and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the coriander. Using a hand-blender whizz up the soup into a puree. If necessary let it down with some more water to get the correct consistency and adjust the seasoning to taste. It should be quite spicy. Serve hot, swirled with some yoghurt to cut the heat.

Red Pepper & Chickpea Soup 2