I was recently talking (er, emailing) with a friend back home about how November is second-worst month of the year. Top spot of course goes to January, the harbinger of seemingly-endless dreary weather and a depressing post-holiday funk. But November is right up there; the prettiness of early Autumn is gone, the rain is almost constant, and as my friend put it, “each day is colder and darker than the last”. Yup, that about sums it up.
If you ask me, the one redeeming quality of November is soup. Dark and dreary days and perfect for hearty, warming soups. Whether creamy, brothy or thick and chunky, a good soup almost always hits the spot. I say “almost” because Andrew doesn’t always agree; for him, some soups aren’t filling enough to be considered dinner fare. However a certain subset, the stew-like soup, can be counted on in these times of need.
One of my favourites is a classic Tuscan-style Ribollita. Meaning “re-boiled”, this peasant staple was traditionally made by re-heating the previous day’s minestrone, adding other leftovers, and serving with bread and cheese. There are countless variations on the recipe, but almost all include a mirepoix base, cannellini beans, tomatoes and a good dose of parmesan cheese on top. Anything you add in addition to that only makes it better; I’ve put everything from bits of steamed veg to leftover rice and pasta in mine. To make it more of a meal, I like my Ribollita with some thick country bread. The choice of white or wholewheat is up to you, as is how to serve it; some recipes call for chunks of day-old bread to be stirred into the soup before serving, and some specify that it should be ladled over the bread in the bowls.
This recipe make four generous servings. Unfortunately, Andrew wasn’t in a “soup for dinner” mood the day I made this, but really that works out best for me, anyway. For the next four days, I was able to inject a little bit of Tuscan summer into my November lunchtime.
- adapted from The Silver Spoon
- serves 4
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
1 bay leaf
1 spring thyme leaves
1 Tbs. tomato paste
2 small potatoes, peeled and in 1/2″ chunks
1 x 400g can cannellini beans
1 x 400g chopped tomatoes
1-2 cups stock (optional- water is fine, too)
3 cups (packed) roughly chopped curly kale
sea salt and black pepper
thick country bread, for serving
parmesan cheese, for serving
- 1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan with a lid (I use a Dutch oven). Add the onions, carrots and celery and turn the heat down to low. Cover and sweat the vegetables for 8-10 minutes, until soft and translucent but not coloured.
2. Add the garlic, bay leaf, thyme and tomato paste and stir well. Cook for another minute or two, until very fragrant. Add the chopped potatoes, cannellini beans, and tomatoes. Pour in a little extra stock or water, so that the vegetables are just covered. Bring to the boil, add the kale and turn down the heat so the soup barely simmers. Cover tightly and simmer for 40 minutes to 1 hour (timing doesn’t need to be exact here), stirring occasionally and adding more stock/water when necessary. When all the veg are tender to the point of a knife, season to taste.
3. When you’re ready to serve the soup, place thick slices of bread (buttered, if you’re so inclined) in the bottom of the bowls. Ladle over the very hot soup and let it cool for 5 minutes, so that the bread softens. Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese.