Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Do you like to dunk your bread in some soup? Do you like beans on toast?  If so, this is the meal for you, combining, as it does, both those culinary textural delights.  I had a head of Cavalo Nero in the fridge, it is cold and drizzly and dark outside, so this Tuscan speciality was just crying out to be eaten.  It is a thick - REALLY thick - bean and vegetable soup that is ladled over a slice of chargrilled country bread, and is totally scrummy.  Cheap too, so it qualifies for the Under a Fiver challenge and will feed 4 people handsomely.  In a large pot, sweat 2 large onions, 2 sticks of celery and 2 carrots - all peeled and finely-chopped (I peel the celery by running the potato peeler from top to bottom to remove the stringy filaments).  Use a good couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  After 10 minutes, tip in a drained 400g can of borlotti beans, a 200g tin of Chair de Tomate or really good tinned chopped tomatoes, a teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary and the leaves picked from a branch of thyme.  Pour over about a litre of boiling water from the kettle.  Add some Marigold veg stock or just salt and pepper, cover and simmer for a good half-an-hour.  Stir from time to time, and mash the beans against the side of the pot to thicken the soup.  Take a head of Cavalo Nero (or the big outer green leaves of a Savoy cabbage) and cut across the head into thin ribbons.  Simmer in the soup for 10 minutes, then drizzzle over a further 2 tablespoons of olive oil and leave, covered, to one side for a few minutes.  Whilst this is happening, cut 4 big pieces of good country bread - sourdough or a French Pain de Campagne or equivalent.  Drizzle with oil and toast on a chargrill pan or under the grill, then rub each side with a cut clove of garlic.  Place a slice of toast in the bottom of shallow bowls and ladle over the thick beany soup.  Sprinkle with grated parmesan and drizzle on a little more olive oil - your best, green, peppery one - and eat, feeling the central heating effect filter through your blood vessels!

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