Wednesday, 3 January 2007
Reboiled and Refreshed
After the past 2 days of no shame indulgence with cake and fish & chips, I thought it best to give my soul some sanctuary and ease the strain on my arteries. For me, this time of the year is almost impossible to start thinking about strict diets. For a start, if you want to stay conscience free and eat seasonally, how on earth are you supposed to find some good local lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber in this frozen northern wasteland? So that's any form of salad out of the way (well, good excuse anyway). Detox? Tried it once and it made me almost suicidal. Exercise? Well, I do that anyway but finding that food/exercise combination that works is a difficult one. Or is it?
The Italians make amazing food at the best of times, but scanning my books for some inspiration this morning led me to a classic Tuscan dish that cries out with Winter warming health, vitality, happiness and most importantly, flavour and texture. Ribollita. A pan full of Ribollita can sooth your senses, ease the guilt, fill you up AND use up the Christmas week leftovers if there are such things. A classic soup of beans, bread and vegetables, it lacks in calories and delivers on satisfaction and flavour. The perfect combination surely for any guilt laden food fan such as I. I am now full and happy and still have half a pan left for the family, should I be foolish enough to tell them about it.
Ribollita literally means 'reboiled', as this Tuscan bean soup is apparently best made a day in advance to let the flavours develop and the soup thicken. According to the locals, it is not a Ribollita if you cannot eat it with a fork. I will forgo tradition this time and eat another bowl with a huge spoon as soon as I've finished writing this.
Like any local dish bursting with pride, it is almost impossible to find an authentic recipe, but here is my 'tweaked' version which omits a half bottle of red wine. Add the wine to this recipe and simmer it for longer to ensure even more flavour but of course more guilt....
1 Large Carrot
3 Celery stalks
3 Cloves of garlic
Half a Cavolo Nero or a Savoy Cabbage
400g cooked cannellini or borlotti beans
400g chopped or tinned tomatoes
1 litre of stock of choice (I used beef)
1 stale ciabatta loaf
1 - Make a 'soffritto' by softening the finely chopped onion, celery and carrot in olive oil. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.
2 - Finely shred the cabbage and dice the courgette. Add to the soffritto and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the beans and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
3 - Add the stock (and 200ml of red wine if using) and gently simmer for 45 minutes.
4 - Cube the ciabatta loaf, mix into the soup and leave to soak for 30 minutes with the heat off.
5 - Season. Serve in large bowls with an optional drizzle of olive oil and a handful of Parmesan cheese. The exercise is now optional.