Flavours holiday I managed to squeeze in during the last week of August. I can still smell the heat on the banks of thyme, remember the intense aroma of tomato leaves and stalks as I stripped the fruits to prepare a tomato sauce. Sigh…. how I wish I was still there, but all good things and all that……
So, looking along the shelves in my pantry I can see there are some wonderful Italian goodies to help me enjoy the autumn and put some of the skills I practised to good use. I am never without dried porcini, pine kernels, truffle oil and nutmeg for example and we had a wonderful crop of garlic from the allotment this year, so it’s a start.
What I really fancied, to chase the cold and damp away was a pot of hearty Tuscan soup, the kind of thing that sticks to the sides and makes you feel as if you have had a passionate embrace but from the inside out. Ribollita must be the soup of choice for a rainy day in London. Bread and vegetables are what gives this traditional dish its flavour, a handful of cannellini beans will exert that silky smooth thickening which makes a soup like this just what the doctor ordered. Ribollita actually means ‘re-boiled’, in English and demonstrates just how thrifty the Tuscans were in times gone by. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of their book; preferably a Cavolo Nero to be precise. Funny how Ribollita sounds so much more romantic though!
Carrots, cabbage, potatoes, celery, leek, tomatoes, beans and the usual ingredients go to make this comforting soup. The surprise ingredient and thickener, however, is bread. The addition of which apparently has its origins back in the medieval period where the well to do would have their food served on ’bread’ plates. At the end of the meal servants would collect these and add the meat soaked edible ‘china’ to vegetables to eke out meagre rations.
After 24 hours, bring to the boil and add some peasant-style bread until the soup thickens dramatically and then set it aside off the heat. At this point the soup will be like some kind of stuffing in consistency. If you find this a little too much to cope with, by all means ensure you have sufficient liquid to deal with the bread. So, it’s at this point you heat some extra virgin oil then add the soup, brown it on both sides and serve, if you are going for the sticky version that is.
Tuscan Flavours holiday this book will put you in mind of what you experienced or what you might wish to try next year.