Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ribollita, or A Very Thick Kale Soup

Once upon a time many moons ago, we went to Italy. We took our nine month old baby, and stayed in the house of an older couple who brought down food for her every day. Along with sweet and savoury focaccia, and fresh eggs and squash blossoms from the garden, they gave us great vats of soup for "la bambola, la principessa"*. The soup was thick and chock full of beans and vegetables; our little one gobbled it up for lunch and dinner most days and happily waved her spoon about while the rest of us looked on longingly, sneaking a taste here and there.

This week, when I saw the kale in the veggie box, I was reminded of the senora's soup. The kale was beautiful: smoky blue with violet stems and veins. I picked up an extra bunch of mixed kale at a local shop, also gorgeous: some bright green with crimped edges; some deep purple. So with my three lots of kale, so pretty on the bench, I was ready to make one of those ultra-thick Italian-style soups.

The soup is pretty ugly; it looks like wet compost. But the extra virgin olive oil, swirled in at the end, brightens the flavours, and the whole tastes rich and dark and wonderful, perfect for a cold winter's night.

If you don't have kale, you could use chicory, silver beet or rainbow chard, or a combination of strong greens – for that matter, I threw in a bunch of beet leaves.

(*the doll, the princess. Er, right.)

Ribollita, or A Very Thick Kale Soup

- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 3 red onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, bashed with the flat of a knife blade then chopped
- 1 entire head celery, chopped
- 1 very large carrot, or 2 smaller carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 can tomatoes or 5 or 6 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped, or a jar of home preserved tomatoes
- 1 kg kale, stalks removed, leaves chopped
- 1 can borlotti beans
- 2 cans cannellini beans**
- 1 ciabatta, crusts removed, torn into pieces
- olive oil

Warm a swirl of olive oil in a large soup pot, and gently fry the parsley, onions, garlic, celery and carrot for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the flavours have melded. Add the tomatoes, and cook gently for a further 20 to 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the kale and the beans, and enough liquid to cover everything. Simmer for half an hour or longer.

Whizz a third to a half of the soup (I used the pulse function on the food processor), and return it to the pot along with enough boiling water to make the soup wet but not runny – it's supposed to be thick. Think 'stew' not 'soup'. Stir in the bread, drizzle with a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil, season and serve.

This feeds 6 to 8 adults.

**Of course, you can use dried borlotti or cannellini beans or a combination of the two, soaked overnight and cooked, in which case use the cooking liquid to thin the soup.

Adapted from a recipe in River Cafe Cookbook by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.

(Local: parsley, red onions, garlic, celery, carrot, kale, olive oil. Made locally from non-local ingredients: bread. Definitely not local: canned beans, canned tomatoes – although if you canned your own tomatoes last summer, you'll be fine!)

No comments:

Post a Comment