home made

Ribollita

This substantial Tuscan soup packed with veg, beans, cabbage, bread and olive oil is one of my all-time favourite recipes both to make and eat. Somewhere between a soup and a stew, in Tuscany they typically make it so thick with bread and oil that you can eat it with a fork. It's also one of those dishes that improves with age, so every time you reheat it, you notice that its deliciousness has doubled. It's not supposed to be a fussy soup, however, so whatever vegetables you have at hand are fine to throw in, just make sure you always start with the onion, carrot, celery base and build it from there.

Ribollita

Ribollita

Serves 4-6

Ribollita

Ribollita

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 big handfuls of parsley leaves, finely chopped
500g cavolo nero or savoy cabbage, stems removed
1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes, drained and rinsed
600g freshly cooked borlotti and/or cannellini beans or 2 x 400g tins, drained and rinsed
2 big handfuls of stale sourdough or ciabatta bread, crusts removed
Extra-virgin olive oil, to serve

In a deep, heavy pan over a medium-low heat, warm the oil and add onion, carrots, celery, garlic and half the parsley and a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes until the veg is completely soft and sweet.

Meanwhile, bring a deep pan filled with plenty of salted water to the boil and blanch the cabbage until tender, then take off the heat (don't drain).

Stir the tomatoes into the veg, breaking them up with your spoon as they go in, and a big splash of cabbage cooking water and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes. Add the beans (and any cooking water if cooked from fresh) and cook for a further few minutes. Using a stick blender, puree approximately a third of the mix while still in the pan to thicken it up.

Scoop in the cabbage and rip in the bread, then pour over enough cabbage water to just cover the veg. Season, then bring to the boil before turning down to a simmer for 20-30 minutes until you have a rich, thick soup. Stir in the parsley and drizzle each portion with plenty of nice olive oil. Keeps for a week and will just get better and better.
 

Sauerkraut

As the saying so rarely goes: when life, or more specifically your organic veg delivery service, gives you cabbage after cabbage, make sauerkraut. 

It is a process that couldn't be more simple. Twenty minutes of toil, two ingredients and a month long wait, mean there really is no discernible reason why you shouldn't make this immediately. Serve alongside any and every pork product know to humanity and you'll be a contented gourmand for ever more.  

Sauerkraut

Makes 1.5 litres of sauerkraut (enough to fill 2 x 700 ml Kilner jars)

2 medium cabbage heads (roughly 2-2.5kg), cored and finely shredded
2 tablespoons sea salt

Before you start, it is a good idea to sterilise your Kilner jars. We would recommend either putting them on a hot wash in your dishwasher, or filling them with seemingly hot (preferably just boiled) water. 

Once you have finely shreddedyour cabbage, place it in the biggest bowl you can find and sprinkle it with salt. Start to toss cabbage and salt together, and as it starts to break down and release some liquid, you can work a little more robustly with it and begin to knead it to break up the cellular structure of the cabbage.

Having kneaded it for roughly 5 minutes, transfer the cabbage to your sterilised Kilner jars. Pack the salted cabbage into the jars as tightly as you can, eliminating all air bubbles. It will seem impossible to get all the cabbage into your chosen jars, but persevere, press it in tightly and it will all fit. 

Cover the jars loosely with a piece of parchment, or indeed with a large outer leaf of the cabbage, andallow it to sit at room temperature, undisturbed, for at least 1 month (and up to 6 months) testing the sauerkraut every few days until it is done to your liking. Once you are happy with the texture and taste of the cabbage, close your jars, transfer to the fridge where it should keep for at least 6 months and up to 1 year.

Sauerkraut

Marinated Artichokes

Artichokes can be pretty hard to come by, so whenever we're lucky enough to encounter them, we buy as many as we can afford and take them home to preserve them. Marinating them in oil, herbs and chilli infuses them with flavour, preparing them to throw into salads, to eat with mozzarella or prosciutto as antipasti or to mix through pasta. They work with many different flavours, so throw in whatever you wish - thyme, rosemary, bay and sage are all brilliant. Marinating works best with the small purple or spikey artichokes from Italy as their outer leaves aren't as delicious as those of the globe artichoke.

They're notoriously laborious to prepare so you'll need to give yourself a little time, but once you get the technique mastered, you'll find yourself whizzing through them. 

Marinated Artichokes

 

Fills an approx. 500ml jar

Violetta artichokes

Violetta artichokes

6 small violetta or spikey artichokes
1 lemon
1 red chilli
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 small bunch parsley
1 bay leaf
1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 x 500ml sterilised jar

Prepare a bowl of cold water with a lemon squeezed into it to prepare the artichokes from browning. Remove the tough outer leaves of the artichoke, stopping when you come to the tender, yellow leaves. Slice away the top third and lightly peel the artichoke base and stem. Slice in half or quarters lengthways before scooping out the hairy core with a teaspoon. Place them in the acidulated water until ready to use.

Drain the artichokes, then place in a a deep pan and cover with fresh water and throw in the chilli, garlic, parsley, bay, fennel seeds, peppercorns, 3 tablespoons of oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt. Bring to the boil, then cover with cartouche (a circle of baking paper) to keep the artichokes submerged, and turn down to a simmer for 5 minutes until tender. They're ready when you can easily pierce with a the tip of a sharp knife. Leave to cool in the water.

Drain, then eat immediately or transfer to a sterilised jar along with the garlic, chilli and bay and cover with olive oil. Will keep in fridge for up to 4 weeks.
 

Marinated artichokes

Marinated artichokes

Chicken baked in dough

This is inspired by a similar recipe by Jamie Oliver that I came across when looking for new things to do with a whole chicken. This is a really lovely way of cooking your bird as the meat gently roasts in its own juices because of its doughy confines so comes out incredibly tender and infused with the mushroom and garlic flavours. You can make this simply with chestnut mushrooms, or try upping the stakes by using the wild mushrooms available at the moment and using game such as partridge or guinea fowl. Wonderfully, this technique works with all birds, you may just need to adjust the cooking time according to the weight of your bird. You need to be quite precise, 10 minutes per 250g is a good guide and always 30 minutes resting time.

Chicken stuffed with mushrooms and baked in dough

Chicken stuffed with mushrooms and baked in dough

25g dried porcini
2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
200g chestnut mushrooms or a mix of wild mushrooms such as girolles or pied de mouton, very finely chopped
A squeeze of lemon
A handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped
75g softened butter
2 kg chicken
1.75 kg plain flour

Boil a kettle and pour over the porcini, then put to one side to soak for 10 minutes.

Warm the olive oil in your largest frying pan over a medium heat and add the garlic. Cook gently for a minute, then add the bay leaves and thyme, followed by the mushrooms. Cook, stirring regularly until the mushrooms are softened and beginning to colour, about 3 minutes. 

Take off the heat for a moment. Scoop the porcini out their liquid (reserve) and finely chop. Return the mushrooms to a high heat and add the porcini and 3 tablespoons of cooking liquid. Cook briskly until the liquid evaporates, then take off the heat again, discard the bay and add a small squeeze of lemon and stir in the parsley. Spread out on a plate to cool.

While your mushrooms cool, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Place the flour in a large bowl and slowly pour in approx 750ml -1l water, incorporating it with your hands, then kneading for a moment until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Put to one side for a moment.

Once cool, have a taste of the mushrooms and season to your liking. Transfer to a bowl and mash together with the softened butter. Approaching from the back of the chicken, gently push your hand under the skin of the bird, separating the skin from the meat around the breast and the legs. Push the mushroom butter under the skin (this bit can get messy!), then tie the legs together securely with string.

Cut off a third of the dough and roll to about 25cm long. Sit the bird on top of it, then roll out the remaining bit to about 40cm and drape over the chicken. Pinch the edges together to firmly seal, then place in the oven for 1 hour 20 minutes. Remove and leave to rest for 30 minutes before cracking open the dough. Discard the dough and string, check that the chicken is cooked through, then carve up and serve. Delicious with mashed potatoes.

 

My Dad's Infamous Dill Pickle

Cucumber pickles from the garden

Cucumber pickles from the garden

The English cucumber season is upon us so what better moment to do a classic Jewish dill pickle recipe? This particular one comes from my Dad's 1992 book, The Feast of Christmas, but its origins lie with a lady called Ada Gail who was considered the finest of all the home cooks in Lexington, Kentucky when my Dad was growing up there in the 1940's. She was of Russian descent, so her version leans towards extra salt (and therefore fermentation) rather than vinegar for the pickling solution. By my Dad's own admission, this recipe has had to be adjusted a few times over the years (I have memories of tear-inducingly fiery ones infused with homegrown chillies), but he claims it is now perfect. 

Pickling cucumbers can be found in farmers' markets, some Tescos and Polish delis. They are distinguishable by their coarse, knobbly skin and squat physiques. Though they may be a little hard to track down, they should be wonderfully cheap when you finally find them. Feel free to adjust the recipe to your own tastes and you can always use smaller/larger jars, just divide up the ingredients accordingly.

My Dad's dill pickle from  Feast of Christmas (with my Mum's scribbles)

My Dad's dill pickle from Feast of Christmas (with my Mum's scribbles)

Makes approx. 6 one-litre jars

18 sprigs of dill
18 garlic cloves
12 mild fresh red chillies (6 dried)
36 black peppercorns
2 tablespoons pickling spice
1 1/2 teaspoons alum (this is used for crispness, but isn't necessary if your cucumbers are nice and fresh)
3kg pickling cucumbers
4 litres of water
175g table salt
125ml cider or white wine vinegar
6 vine leaves

The night before you want to make the pickle, scrub the cucumbers and soak them in a deep bucket filled with water and a handful of table salt.

The following morning, drain and rinse the cucumbers. Sterilise your jars by washing them in soapy water, rinsing them and placing them on a tray in a 140C/275F/Gas 1 oven for 10 minutes until completely dry, then leave to cool.

Place 3 sprigs of dill, 3 garlic cloves, 2 red chillies, 6 peppercorns and a pinch of pickling spice in each jar and push in the cucumbers, packing them in tightly.

Make a brine by boiling the water with the salt and vinegar, then pour the hot brine over the cucumbers, reserving any leftover brine. Cover each jar with a vine leaf and seal with a lid. After 2 or 3 days, you can expect to see some fermentation bubbles; in which case, top up with more boiling brine and seal the jars again. When the brine clears and the bubbles stop forming, fermentation has been completed, and you can eat the pickles four or five days later. A good way of checking is just to have a taste. You probably won't need any urging, but it is best to eat it them within a couple of months.

 

Home made dill pickles

Home made dill pickles