Is it racist to apply stereotypes to national foods?  If so then I’m guilty.

I think of French food as intricate and complex, Indian food as fragrant and fiery, English food as diverse, and my ex-wife’s description of German food as “pink pig” might stay with me forever.  I can enjoy them all and more, but my preference is for Italian food for its emphasis on flavour.

You couldn’t say it’s fast food; yes you can rustle up some pasta pretty quickly from a packet, but try making it from scratch and its a different story.  The wintry weather we’ve recently experienced in the UK persuaded me it was time for a hearty soup so I decided on a ribollita, a Tuscan dish.

First of all there was the beans that are at the heart of the recipe, and since mine were dried they needed untitled-36soaking for several hours, before then being cooked to tenderness for another 45 minutes, time which I needed to prepare all the vegetables.  I don’t have the knife skills of a Roux, Locatelli or Oliver so the task of finely chopping onions, carrots, celery and garlic was not a quick one.

They then needed slow cooking for 20 minutes with some pancetta to soften before adding tomatoes and spices and mixing with the beans.  This might have been enough to produce something warm and tasty but we weren’t done yet though my pan was almost full.  I needed to add in enough kale to fill the pan a second time, allowing the heat to wilt it down handful by handful until it was all incorporated.

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Still not done though.

The addition of stale bread is a Tuscan technique used in the salad panzanella, and it features here to add a thick and smooth texture to the soup.

Another half hour should see it all incorporated.

Why bother with all of this effort when you could open a tin of supermarket bean soup in a fraction of the time?


One of my daughters is visiting tomorrow.untitled-98



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