Ribolitta Recipe – at last
I’ve been promising Erik that now Autumn has made its presence felt, I would make Ribolitta, a meal in itself, the Italian ‘Peasant’ zuppa, or soup, guaranteed to warm us up and fill us up at the same time.
The main ingredient of the Ribolitta Recipe is Cavolo Nero, or Kale of the Italian variety, which grows so well, even in East Yorkshire, right through winter. Some readers can’t have failed to notice by now that I have a penchant for this handsome vegetable, and so it was that I trotted up the garden and chopped loads of the good leaves from two or three of my plants, and here they are, waiting to be washed at least a couple of time, with my good glasses on so that I could scrutinise the leaves very closely for any bugs (ughhhhhh), then rinse thoroughly. Washing, rinsing and chopping the Cavolo Nero took me almost half an hour, but it was worth it.
It was one of those dull, dark grey afternoons, so I really enjoyed myself in my kitchen. When we first moved into our house, some years ago, I decided that this time I wanted a kitchen that would look like the Mediterranean in the summer and still be sunny, colourful and warm on a horribly cold, damp and dark English winter morning, and as you can see from the picture, it is very cheerful and welcoming (although in need of a good tidying up).
I spent my afternoon chopping, slicing, simmering and tasting as the Ribolitta Recipe gradually came together. There is quite a lot of preparation, but the end result is so worth it. You can use a tin of Cannellini Beans, which is quicker, but nearly all the recipes stressed that using Fresh or Dried Beans enhanced the taste, so I followed that advice. I also searched masses of my books for the recipe I had in mind, and was surprised by Erik, camera in hand (see below).
In the end, I used bits from The River Cafe Cook Book (especially on how to cook the Fresh or Dried Cannellini Beans and put a bit of Bicarbonate of Soda in the water with them). Bits from Jamie’s Italy (in which he suggests using Zolfini beans, smaller and tastier) and bits from Felippo Berio’s The Mediterranean Olive Oil Cook Book. So many thanks for that help. I also received some great tips via Twitter from Steven Parle, voted ‘The Young Chef of the Year 2010’ by the Observer, and the Chef/Owner of the Dock Kitchen, off Ladbroke Grove in London, so many thanks for being so generous.
Erik kept wandering in, sniffing the air and peering over my shoulder as I was gently stirring my big pan, and said it was about time I returned to serious cooking instead of disappearing up to the Office on the 2nd floor and blogging all the time. He could be right! But he really does love cooking now, and sometimes it is a fight as to who cooks the evening meal.
But that night, it was me.
And the verdict on the Ribolitta Recipe? Was it worth it? Heavens, yes. It was better than either of us could have believed. It was just …… absolutely amazing!