Panzanella for Sorting Days

We’ve been up to our elbows in life and flat admin here at ASH HQ.  Lots of late Spring cleaning- out with the old, in with the new.  Well, less of in with the new, actually.  Mostly chucking out the old in overflowing bin bags destined for the tip. 

For hot, sorting days you need something quick and easy that you can eat standing up, spooning into your mouth between outbursts of ‘ I wanted to keep that!’   Panzanella is excellent throw-together weekend food.  This Italian bread and tomato salad is summery and fresh, but still satisfying enough to fuel lugging and lifting.  And although I’m not suggesting that heritage tomatoes are easy to come by, my local (not fancy) greengrocers has recently started stocking them, so they can be found if you look out for them.  Of course, normal tomatoes would work just as well- ideally plump, ripe ones on the vine.   

Controversially, I’ve added Dijon mustard to my recipe.  It is by no means traditional, but I love mustard in my salad dressings, so I’ve added it here for a bit of peppery sharpness.  Taste your tomatoes before you make the dressing, if they are a bit under-ripe and don’t have much in way of sweetness, perhaps replace the Dijon with some balsamic for some sugar with that acid hit. 

A final note on storing tomatoes- there is nothing worse than biting into a cold, firm tomato.  For this recipe, take them out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature. 

My Panzanella

You will need:
1 red onion
1 lemon
600g mixed heritage tomatoes (or vine tomatoes)
1/2 sourdough baguette (or other crusty bread)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
sea salt
black pepper
large handful basil, torn

Method:

1.  First, slice the red onion finely.  Place in a bowl and pour over the juice of half a lemon.  Mix thoroughly, cover, and set aside for about an hour.  The onion will loose its rawness and turn a beautiful, vibrant purple.   

2.  Chop up the tomatoes- it doesn’t have to be especially neat.  Place in a large bowl.  Tear the bread into chunks and add these to the bowl along with the onions, drained of the lemon juice.

3.  Mix together the dressing to your liking.  Mine was about 1 tbsp lemon juice to 3 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp Dijon, along with plenty of salt and pepper.  Toss these over the rest of the ingredients and leave for a few minutes before finally adding torn basil leaves. 

Spring’s Around the Corner Soup

Cauliflower is not my favourite vegetable.  I find it a bit bland and meek, really.  It just doesn’t pack the same punch as cabbage or kale.  It’s like the youngest child in the Brassica family, a bit lost and unsure of itself in a clan of bolder, vitamin-loaded greens.  It needs a bit of assistance to come into its own and that help quite often seems to be cheese-shaped. 

It would be easy to dismiss this soup as a liquid version of the classic cauliflower cheese, but that would be doing it a disservice.  In fact, it has a creamy consistency similar to a Vichyssoise with added spice and tang from the mustard and cheddar.  The croutons add an unusual twist and provide a satisfying crunch that would work well in salads too. 

The recipe is by Heidi Swanson (of the 101 Cookbooks blog) in her cookbook ‘Super Natural Everyday.’  I have, however, added a bit more mustard and cheese for even more oomph.  The result is a cheerful, sprightly soup that is still warming and wholesome.  Perfect for beginning of the end of the cold winter months.  Nothing bland about that. 

Cauliflower Soup with Mustard Croutons
From Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day



You will need:

For the mustard croutons:
170g bread (preferably stonebaked or artisan), torn into small chunks
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
sea salt

For the soup:
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
sea salt
1 large potato (I used sweet potato as that was all I had to hand)
2 cloves of garlic
900ml stock or water (I used chicken stock)
340 g cauliflower, cut into small florets (about 1 medium sized vegetable)
50g strong cheddar, the better the quality and the more stinky, the better the soup, grated
2 tsp Dijon mustard

Method:

1.  First, make the croutons.  Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.  

2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter on a medium heat.  Once, melted, take off the heat and stir in the mustard, olive oil and sea salt, whisking until you have a smooth mixture. 

3.  Place the croutons on a baking sheet or in an oven proof tray.  Drizzle with the mustard dressing and toss to evenly distribute.

4.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until the croutons are golden and crunchy.  Check on them half way through and do be vigilant as they will burn in a millisecond.

5. While the croutons are in the oven (and you are keeping one eye on them), start preparing the soup. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onions and shallots with a pinch of sea salt.  Fry them over a medium heat, until softened.  Make sure they don’t catch on the bottom of the pan.

6. Add the potato and, stirring constantly, cook for a further 4-5 min, until softened.

7. Stir in the garlic, leave for a minute or so, before adding the stock. Bring to a boil and leave to simmer until the potatoes are tender.

8.  Add the cauliflower and leave to cook for about 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft.

9.  Wizz the soup in a blender or use a stick blender, as I did, taking care not to splatter yourself and the whole kitchen with boiling liquid, as I did. 

10.  Stir in the mustard and about half the grated cheese.  Add more stock or water if you feel it is too thick.

11.  To serve, ladle into bowls and add croutons, a sprinkling of cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.