Posts Tagged ‘olive oil’

Another bean soup–can’t have too many in my opinion!

Interior insulation for the post prandial walk on a chilly winter day.

This satisfying soup is based on one in Elizabeth Romer’s lovely book, The Tuscan Year: Life and Food in an Italian Family.

Her account of the Cerroti family’s daily existence is a good read and full of authentic seasonal recipes.

Serves 4

4 tbsp olive oil

2 onions – chopped small

2 sticks of celery – chopped small

3 cloves of garlic – finely chopped

100 g/4 oz smoked bacon/pancetta – use unsmoked if you prefer – chopped small

4 tbsp parsley – chopped

1 x 450 g/16 oz can tomatoes – drained and chopped

350 g/12 oz tinned/jarred white beans – drained, rinsed and puréed–use the best quality beans you can find–it makes a difference

570 ml/1 pint/ vegetable stock – more if you like (I use organic veg. stock cubes)

150 g/6 oz “short” wholewheat pasta – (i.e. penne or farfalle, not spaghetti)

salt and pepper

freshly-grated parmesan

  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan.
  • Add the onions, celery, garlic, bacon and parsley, and turn them in the oil.
  • Cook them over a gentle heat until the vegetables are tender and the bacon is colouring up – this is the “taste engine” of the soup and needs some time – at least 20 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and mix them in and allow to meld for a good 10 minutes.
  • Add the beans and mix in.
  • Cook gently for 10 minutes.
  • These stages are important for a good depth of flavour and shouldn’t be rushed.
  • The soup should look beautiful now – with a warm glow.
  • Add half the stock and let it meld in.
  • Add the pasta and the rest of the stock and cook the pasta in the soup.
  • It may take a little longer than pasta normally does (I put a lid on at this point to help).
  • Be careful that this thick and unctuous soup does not stick and burn.
  • If you prefer it looser, add more stock and cook on a little to incorporate it.
  • Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste –remembering that the bacon and stock can be salty.
  • Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and swirls of olive oil.

(This nourishing soup is included in my cookbook–Delicious Dishes for Diabetics–a Mediterranean Way of Eating.)

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I’ve decided on single word resolutions for 2012–which beckons.

My first is SIMPLIFY!

Something simple–for New Year’s Eve perhaps…?

I’m spatchcock-crazy at the moment.

To spatchcock or spattlecock or butterfly is to remove the back and breastbones of a chicken (simply and effectively demonstrated in this video) or any other bird (I just watched someone spatchcock a turkey!) in order to open it up and flattened it out–as you might do a book. This allows the bird to cook more quickly and evenly.

Spatchcocking is an easy and oddly satisfying technique. All you need is a pair of poultry shears or strong scissors and the nerve to try it!  (Or your friendly butcher might do it for you….)

Earlier this week I had two spatchcocked birds in the fridge–a chicken and a guinea fowl–and two recipes I wanted to try.

I took  the guinea fowl out to make this dish–inspired by a recipe in The River Café Classic Italian Cookbook .

We ate it thinking “How good this spatchcocked guinea fowl tastes!“.

The next day I went to the fridge to get the chicken, to marinade it overnight for the other recipe–and found the guinea fowl!

We’d eaten the chicken thinking it was guinea fowl!

I put it down to Christmas fever.

Ideal for serving four people–the bird (whichever comes to hand!) divides easily into quarters thus dispensing with the need to carve.

You could use chicken or guinea fowl quarters instead.

1 chicken--spatchcocked

2 lemons–halved

3 tblsps olive oil

6 bay leaves

salt and pepper

set oven to 200C

While the oven is heating–

  • Squeeze the juice from two lemon halves into a pan, halve them and leave the quartered lemon in the pan with the bay leaves.
  • Rub the skin of the chicken with the two remaining lemon halves.
  • Lower the spatchcocked chicken over the lemon halves and the bay.
  • Season well and spoon the oil over the chicken.
  • Add the other two lemon halves to the pan.
  • Cook–covered–on a low flame for 30 minutes.
  • Uncover, spoon over some of the juice and place in the upper part of the pre-heated oven.
  • Cook on for 40 minutes–checking and basting a couple of times.

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Lamb chops, borlotti beans and broccoli.

We eat relatively little red meat.

Meredith bought these lamb chops on Tuesday from Monsieur Fraisse, the butcher in Lautrec. “They looked particularly nice….

The beans are from Italy, bought in jars. They grow in beautiful red spotted pods–the beans turn brown when cooked.

The broccoli I bought from the organic market in Castres, yesterday afternoon.

For 2

4 lean lamb chops

3/4 sprigs of rosemary–needles removed

2 garlic cloves

3 tablespoons olive oil–a little more if you need it



1 tin/jar of beans–drained but the liquid retained (of course these can be white or borlotti)

sprig of sage

a clove of garlic–chopped

1/2 an organic vegetable stock cube

the other 1/2 an organic vegetable stock cube dissolved in 250 ml/1/2 pint of hot water–(use this instead of or in addition to the liquid from the beans)


1/2 lb/ 250 gms  broccoli–washed, stems shortened and cut into eatable florets

salt and pepper

olive oil

  • An hour or two before you eat  “pestle” the rosemary needles up  (i.e. smash up!) with the garlic and a pinch of salt in a mortar and add the oil–this is the marinade for the chops.
  • Pour this fragrant mix over the chops in a bowl and turn everything to coat the chops with the marinade.
  • leave initially in the fridge–covered; then take them out an hour before cooking them.
  • Heat a grill to medium.
  • Season the chops and put them on the grill.
  • Timing depends on your taste and their thickness–3 to 4 minutes a side and they’ll retain some pinkness.
  • While they cook gently sauté the garlic and sage in the olive oil in a small pan until the garlic begins to colour.
  • Add the half stock cube (give it a stir to dissolve in the oil).
  • Add the beans.
  • Stir the mix and add a little of the bean liquid or the stock.
  • Cover and cook on for 5 minutes or so.
  •  In another pan, steam the broccoli covered until tender but not overcooked.
  • Serve with olive oil and salt on the table.

Interested customers watching M. Fraisse working on lamb chops

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Vanessa wrote a comment/response yesterday to the post: Pinzimonio–olive oil dip.

“What could be better than the best olive oil served with vegetables? The Italians have really got it right.”

…which prompts me to share a simple story (and recipe)  recounted in my cookbook--Delicious Dishes for Diabetics.

Many years ago I had lunch in a tiny worker’s café in the centre of Florence only open at midday. I watched the owner put down a plate of steaming broccoli–that was all there was on the plate–in front of a burly Italian and place a large jug of olive oil and salt & pepper beside it.

The man poured on the oil, seasoned the irresistible plateful and began to eat.

That’s simple eating.

Of course, he may have had a veal chop after I left!

500 g/18 oz broccoli–stems stripped of rough outer layer and cut into bite-size pieces, florets cut


BBBS--Before Being Bite-Sized!

olive oil

salt pepper

lemon quarters

  • Steam the broccoli until tender, but careful not to overcook it–the colour dulls.
  • Test from time to time with the end of a sharp knife.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and pour over the oil–be generous.
  • Season to taste and mix carefully.
  • Serve with a small jug of olive oil for those who are never satisfied–and some lemon quarters.

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An autumn/winter soup this–with a big presence.

Adapted from Leslie Forbes’ lovely book  A Table in Tuscany.

In the early eighties she had the bright idea of eating her way round Tuscany’s restaurants and watering holes–an arduous task to set oneself.

This soup–one of the best bean soups in Tuscanyshe credits to the restaurant of the Fattoria dei Barbi near Montalcino and the unnamed English cook, married to an Italian, thus providing the important advantage of a Tuscan mother-in-law!  This is 25 years ago mind–things have a habit of changing.

The book remains a gem (used copies available on Amazon for a penny!).

2 carrots--chopped small

2 sticks of celery–chopped small

2 leeks–cleaned and chopped small

6 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 tinned tomatoes–chopped up with their liquid

A sprig of fresh thyme

1 large garlic clove–pulped

Half a green cabbage–stem removed and shredded

The other half of the cabbage shredded thinly–this for a topping (see below)

1 tablespoon olive oil

About 800 gms/24 oz of cooked white beans [canned or bottled or dried, soaked and cooked]–drained but their liquid retained

1 pint/500ml stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sweat the celery, leeks and carrots until they are tender–about twenty minutes.
  • Mix in the tomatoes, garlic and thyme and let them cook on for five minutes.
  • Add the cabbage, season with salt & pepper and cook on for ten minutes.
  • Purée three-quarters of the beans in a mixer with a little of their liquid.
  • Add the bean water and the bean purée and stir it all together.
  • Cook this thick mix for an hour–stirring it regularly to stop it sticking and burning.
  • Add a little of the stock each time you stir it.
  • This is meant to be a thick soup–up to you how loose to make it–just be careful not to dilute the depth of taste.
  • While the soup cooks on sauté the rest of the cabbage to serve as a topping when you present the soup.

  • Keep tasting the soup as you go (you may find yourself doing that anyway!).
  • Serve with a drizzle of good quality olive oil.

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Two old favourites

As an appetizer before dinner last night Meredith served our friends Hilton and Lindsay pinzimonio–without quite knowing…!

Pinzimonio, I discover (by a chance re-reading of Lesley Forbes’ lovely book,  A Table in Tuscanyis a Tuscan olive oil dip, best made with the oil from newly-harvested olives.

It’s usually served with raw or lightly-cooked vegetables such as fennel, red and yellow peppers, celery, radishes and artichokes.

Simply pour some beautiful green olive oil on the plate, add a little sea salt and black pepper and dip a slice of vegetable in it.

Sometimes a little lemon juice is added–but this is frowned upon by Tuscans, according to  Wilma Pezzini in her Tuscan Cookbook!

Meredith substituted rough country bread for the vegetables and left out the salt and pepper–‘It didn’t need salt and pepper!,’ she just said disdainfully.

A parsimonious pinzimonio!

I watched in dismay from the stove area as the three of them dipped and dipped–putting away  helping after helping of this simple but morish dish.

You won’t have any appetite left!‘ I cried in vain!

But pinzimonio proved a true appetizer–they all managed some butternut squash soup and a healthy plate of spatchcocked chicken, romanesco broccoli (aka Roman cauliflower), green salad, Italian peccorino cheeses and baked apples!

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The green “gold” that won 2nd prize at the Fiera dell’Olio in Cavriglia, Tuscany last Sunday.

Our friend Keith has emailed to say their new season olive oil from his Podere [farm]Boggioli won second prize at the local fair this week. A good enough reason, if I needed one, to cook one of Helen’s signature dishes for lunch today.

Helen cooked this delicious pasta after the last olive was in the basket and the picking was done for another year.

Two of the team stayed to eat it with us–Lucio and Ivan. Both still had  their own trees to harvest.

I like to think they’d had the dish before and knew it was irresistible.

for 2  [for 4–double up on the beans and their liquid and add 4 oz/100 gms more pasta]

200 gms/8 oz wholewheat penne

4 tablespoons olive oil

8 cloves of garlic–peeled but kept whole

a handful of fresh sage

2 small red (hot) chilies–chopped

1 tin  [about 200 gms drained] of white beans–drained, but their liquid retained

4/5 tablespoons of stock–I dissolved half an organic vegetable stock cube in a mug of hot water


  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
  • Add the garlic and let it colour a little.

  • Add the sage and chilis and let them cook on for a few moments.
  • Add the beans and cook gently for about fifteen minutes–adding the bean liquid little by little to make a thick runny sauce.
  • I continued cooking the mix a little longer, adding the tablespoons of stock–a couple at a time–to keep the mixture loose without losing the thick viscous quality of the sauce.

  • Some of the beans will melt into the sauce.
  • Season with salt and taste.
  • Cook the penne in plenty of salted water until just tender.
  • Drain the pasta.

  • Add the sauce to the pasta and let it meld in.
  • Helen doesn’t serve grated parmesan with this pasta–but it’s up to you, of course.
  • I poured over a little of the new olive oil–naturally!

  • Meredith added a little parmesan–that’s marriage for you!
  • We ate it “al fresco” in the late autumn sunshine.

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