Monday, February 07, 2011


I was looking for a way to use the chicken carcass from last weeks' roast chicken as stock as well as half a bunch of parsley and possibly some potatoes and cabbage too. I'm not convinced that I am essentially frugal but I really hate throwing food away.

Recently I found a large cookbook in a charity shop in Brixton. Decidedly battered but holding together well between hardback covers, it is a copy of The Conran Cookbook published originally in 1980 but this was republished in 1997 with the original work of Caroline and Terence Conran now supplemented by additions from Simon Hopkinson - he of Roast Chicken and Other Stories, author of the 'best' cookbook ever. Had to be worth a look.

There's no way of knowing who wrote what but it quickly became clear why the book had been so well used. It's stuffed full of fairly simple recipes, real week by week stuff, largely European in style, with lots of interesting stuff about ingredients. Indeed the purpose of the book is to chart the progress of food from market to kitchen to table, with half the book devoted to the purchase and preparation of food before you even get to the eclectic collection of recipes. A seriously good browse that assumes a fair amount of intelligence in its readers.

Checking out the offerings in the soup section I found this Ribollita, an almost perfect use of everything I had still left on Friday, with the addition of a couple more veg for what turned out to be a deeply flavoured soup, with lots of lovely textures and properly robust.


You're aiming for a thick 'stewy' broth. It's traditional to ladle the soup over chunks of stale, country style bread but I had none, but fresh rye on the side made a great accompaniment

Serves 6

170g dried borlotti or pinto beans, soaked overnight
4 tbspns olive oil, plus extra for serving
1 red onion, chopped
A bunch of parsley, big stalks discarded, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
225g Swiss chard or curly kale, wahsed and coarsely chopped
1 sweetheart cabbage, coarsely chopped
4 tomatoes, skinned and chopped
Heel of old Parmesan rind
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into 2cm pieces
2 litres of chicken or vegetable stock - use the cooking water from the beans for part of it
1 or 2 courgettes, halved lengthways then cut across into 1/2 cm slices

Drain and rinse the beans and cook in unsalted water till al dente. Drain but be sure to keep the cooking water for the soup base.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and soften the onions with the parsley and the garlic. Set half the chopped kale and cabbage aside, and add the rest, with all the stalky bits, to the onions. Put in the tomatoes, potatoes and cooked beans. Stir for a few minutes to coat all the vegetables in oil then add the stock, the bean water and the Parmesan rind and bring to the boil.

Simmer for an hour then add the courgettes and season with salt and pepper. simmer for a further 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, blanch the reserved kale and cabbage by plunging it into a pan of boiling salted water and boil for 2 minutes. It should be tender but still bright green. Drain and add to the soup. Bring the soup back to the boil.

Put chunks of bread into soup bowls and ladle the soup over the top. Everyone can serve themselves with extra drizzles of olive oil and sprinklings of grated Parmesan.

This reheats really well, the flavour intensifying int he same way as stews, without the vegetables collapsing. Deeply satisfying food.


Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

A ribollita eaten in Florence is one of my Top 5 dishes ever and I've never managed to make one myself. There's no mention of the Italian bread in it though which had been what put me off (based on River Cafe recipe) so if I could make it without the Italian bread I might manage it!

bron said...

Having eaten this one Sarah I can believe it's a top 5 ever. I was expecting a reasonable use of still okay veg and got such an amazing bowl of food instead that just had everything.

I'm wary of adding bread to the base of soups too - not convinced it enhances!

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