Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I was watching Masterchef last night and was suitably humbled by these so-called 'amateurs' cooking in Michelin star restaurants. As I sat there eating my own effort, the salmon red curry I had lovingly prepared paled ever-so-slightly in comparison to these dainty food sculptures that were being carefully assembly with the dexterity and precision of a heart surgeon. Anyhow, the winner (Matt the IT guy) cooked the winning meal using wild ingredients, like rabbit, spider crabs, sea vegetables (which is a posh and in fairness more appetising euphemism for seaweed) and lavender. Very in keeping with these frugal times - get out there and get foraging!!!...

Foraging might be a bit of a stretch for most of us though - I was impressed, but I won't be out this weekend trawling ditches for random things to put in a stew. So - maybe going down the hearty, rustic route is a more fitting compromise. My brother very kindly got me a subscription to the new Jamie Oliver magazine for Christmas, and I was delighted to come home on Monday and see it waiting for me. It's absolutely chock-a-block with recipes, and he also has this pull-out menu for your two months-type thingy, where he basically highlights how easy peasy it can be to throw together a tasty meal by summing it up in a few lines - accompanied by an enticing photo for added incentive. He mentioned his Ribollita, a Tuscan vegetable soup, which is also in Jamie's Italy, so I rooted it out and cooked it last night. It's inexpensive, low calorie and extremely tasty - give it a go:
Soak about 310g cannellini beans overnight. Cook them for about an hour with a bay leaf, a peeled potato and a squashed tomato. When they're nice and soft, strain them, remove the tomato, bay leaf and potato and keep the cooking water. Put some olive oil in a large pot and cook two celery sticks, two red onions, two carrots and two cloves of garlic (all finely chopped), along with a pinch of ground fennel seeds and a pinch of dried red chilli, auntil they're soft - bout 15 minutes. Pop in a tin of chopped tomatoes and bring it all up to a simmer. Put in your beans, along with some of the water that they were cooked in and bring it back to the boil. Stir in 310g cavolo nero (this is an Italian cabbage, hard to find so I used curly kale instead) and soften two handfuls of bread, torn into chunks, in the bean cooking water, and add as much water as you need to create a nice thick consistency. Cook it for about 30 minutes, then stir in a glug of olive oil and season.

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