I recognise that my previous post was practically a love letter to the current season, so this post is going to be a bit more pessimistic. This weather is a pain in the arse. It is only me, or is it unusually cold and damp for this time of year? I've just managed to get rid of a scratchy, chesty cough, but still feel quite run down.
It's a situation that calls for vegetables. The iron-packed variety preferably in as virtuous a form as possible, not slathered in cheese or anything. I'll take this cavolo nero and bean soup, topped with a vitamin c packed gremolata to ward away bugs and nurse me back to health.
Cavolo nero is cabbage's stylish, Italian cousin. Tall, dark and handsome, that kind of thing. This soup recipe has been nicked from the Waitrose website. It is very much what I think of as a classic version of this kind of Tuscan-inspired, hearty potage and it tastes brilliant as well as being incredibly good for you.
Cannellini Bean and Cavolo Nero Soup
You will need:
For the soup
1 large onion, chopped
1 large stick celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
4 medium tomatoes
150ml dry white wine
800ml vegetable stock
1 bouquet garni
410g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
200g cavolo nero, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large clove garlic, crushed
For the Gremolata
1 tbsp olive oil
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped flatleaf parsley
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic and fry until soft and beginning to colour.
2. Peel, deseed and roughly chop the tomatoes.
3. Add the wine to the vegetables and bring to the boil, then add the tomatoes, stock, bouquet garni and beans. Simmer.
4. Cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes, before adding the cavolo nero and leaving to cook for another 10-15 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, make the gremolata. Combine the lemon zest, garlic and parsley then add just enough oil to make a paste.
6. Remove the bouquet garni and serve the soup with a sprinkling of the gremolata.
And now on to another hearty, healthy vegetable that is also in season, but this time the recipe actually is slathered in cheese, I'm afraid. But life would be pretty dull if it was virtuous all the time.
As we approach Halloween, all sorts of gourds and squashes appear on supermarket and green grocer's shelves. They are so beautiful, it's almost a shame to eat them. Indeed, my mother would often have a bowl full of different coloured and shaped squashes as decoration around this time of year, but I don't recall her ever cooking with them.
But they are in fact absolutely delicious, roast wonderfully and are particularly good stuffed with a chunky, cheesy sauce. We had some Shropshire blue cheese in the fridge that was calling out to be used in this, but any strong blue cheese would work, really. If you aren't a fan, Parmesan or goats cheese make for good substitutes.
Stuffed Globe Courgettes
You will need:
2 globe courgettes
1 large portabella mushroom
1/4 leek or 1 banana shallot
1 garlic clove
100g Shropshire blue cheese or other strong cheese
2 tbsp creme fraiche
1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Cut the tops off of the courgettes to create 'lids.' Scoop and scrape out the flesh to create cavernous spaces. Reserve the excess courgette.
2. Finely chop the leek or shallot and portabella mushroom. Fry the leeks/shallot in some olive oil before adding the mushrooms. Saute for a few minutes while you chop up the inside bits of the courgette and mince the garlic clove.
3. Add the garlic and courgette to the pan and keep frying. Season with salt, pepper and chopped rosemary.
4. Add 75g of the crumbled cheese and the creme fraiche and let bubble away over a low heat until all the cheese has melted. Pour the mixture into the scooped out courgettes.
5. Top with the remaining cheese and put the 'lids' back on. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Serve with a fresh green salad with a mustardy vinaigrette.