Fun Food Recipes for a Freezing February.
Looking out of my Office window, (well, spare bedroom window really), the sky is the greyest of greys, the trees are even all grey, and to warm me up I’ve been thinking of fun food recipes for a freezing February. It really looks horrible out there, with a few flurries of snow, a bit of occasional hail and rivulets of rain running down the windows at times, threatening any minute to turn to snow and ice!
The thing is, this week I’ve already concocted a comforting Beef Casserole, complete with fluffy mustard and herb suet dumplings taken from a Mary Berry recipe. Erik wants to make one of his famous Lasagnes tomorrow, not sure whether it will be a Vegetable or Meat one, so what will it be tonight? Much as I want food that’s comforting, I fancy something from sunny climes, such as this wonderful bowl below.
Now, this is the first of the fun food recipes to warm us up in a freezing February. Obviously from Italy, it’s a warming bowl of a tomato based soup overflowing with vegetables, herbs, a touch of chilli and even some dry white wine – what could be more comforting on a very miserable day. Just looking at it cheers me up. So here’s the recipe.
Pasta E Fagioli con Escarole
- 375ml dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight
- 1 Parmesan rind (about 2 ounces), plus shaved Parmesan for serving
- 2 medium carrots, scrubbed, halved, crosswise
- 2 stalks celery, halved crosswise
- 1 head garlic, halved crosswise, plus 2 cloves, chopped finely
- 6 sprigs parsley
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 dried chilli or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more crushed for serving
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for serving
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 1 450ml can whole peeled tomatoes
- 175ml dry white wine
- 90g dried lasagna or other flat pasta, broken into small bite-sized pieces
- Half small head of Escarole, or Cavolo Nero black kale (or dark green cabbage) leaves torn into small pieces
- Drain beans well, then put the beans, Parmesan rind, carrots, celery, head of garlic, parsley, rosemary, bay leaves, chilli and 2 litres of water to boil in a medium pan.
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer, adding more water as needed, until beans are tender, about 1½ hours. Season with salt and pepper, remove from heat, and let sit 30 mins.
- Discard vegetables, rind and herbs.
- Meanwhile heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook onion and chopped garlic, stirring occasionally until softened, about 8 - 10 mins.
- Add tomatoes, crushing with your hands,(or if you've just had your nails done, with a big wooden spoon), and cook stirring often, until liquid is almost completely reduced, approx. 12 - 15 mins.
- Add wine, bring to the boil, and cook until almost completely evaporated, about 5 mins.
- Add beans and their liquid. Cook gently until all flavours have mixed, about 12 - 15 mins. Add pasta, cook, stirring and adding more water as needed, until pasta al dente, about 15 - 20 mins.
- Throw in Escarole (or Kale or Cabbage) and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve soup drizzled with olive oil, and topped with more grated Parmesan and more Chilli.
Fun Food Recipe for a Freezing February
My quest for another comforting recipe has strengthened after hearing that down the East Coast of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire we probably will wake up in the morning to snow and even chillier weather. Still, not disheartened, I have continued searching, and have found another Fun Food Recipe that has awakened my tastebuds. See what you think to this one, a Tartiflette, using slightly sweet Parsnips instead of the more usual potatoes.
Parsnip and Bacon Tartiflette
- 50g butter, softened
- 1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with a little salt
- 1kg medium-size parsnips peeled
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 200g streaky bacon lardons
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 100ml dry white wine
- 120g creme fraiche, plus 4 tbsp extra
- 225g semi-soft cheese, ideally French Reblochon or Italian Fontina, thinly sliced through the rind
- 75g Comte cheese, coarsely grated
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper for seasoning.
- Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
- Lightly grease a 2 litre shallow ovenproof dish with a little of the butter, then smear on a tiny bit of the crushed garlic.
- Cut the parsnips across at a slight angle (to give longer pieces) into 5mm thick slices. Add to a pan of boiling salted water and bring back to the boil, then cook for 4-5 mins. Drain and leave to cook slightly.
- Meanwhile heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Fry the bacon until lightly golden, then remove with a slotted spoon onto a plate. Add the remaining butter to the pan with the onions and fry for 6-7 mins, stirring, until golden brown.
- Add the rest of the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and bubble gently until reduced by half. Take off the heat and stir in the 120g of creme fraiche. Taste and season.
- Spread one-third of the parsnip slices over the base of the dish and cover with half of the onion mixture. Scatter over half the bacon lardons, going over a bit of pepper and had half the Reblochon or Fontina slices. Repeat the layers once more, then finish with a layer of parsnips.
- Dot with the 4 tablespoons of creme fraiche, sprinkle over the Comte cheese then bake for 25-30 mins until golden and bubbling.
- Serve straightaway.
Peering out of my window, the sky is nearly black now, the street lights are on, and I hope all our Robins, Blackbirds, Bluebirds and Sparrows are now tucked up safely in the middle of our thick hedges, keeping themselves toasty warm. Bird food in all its guises is scattered around our garden (where Fizzi the dog can’t reach it), and it is now time to de-camp downstairs to feed the dog and light up the log burner. Looking forward to cooking these Fun Food Recipes, and I do hope you enjoy them too.