I know, this is my third soup stew post in a row, what can I say, its that time of year, I have got thick tights on and I am most definitely in a hearty soup frame of mind. Also this morning my stomach was crying out for something simple and nourishing after the riotous consumption and extraordinary over indulgence we enjoyed at two Italian weddings this weekend, yes two, I have one burst zip and a rather stretched dress to prove it.
This time may I please introduce you to ‘hearty squash and cabbage soup stew’, he is a robust type, you could describe him as a rough and ready, a no nonsense sort of bowlful which will nourish, sustain and delight you in the most reassuringly straightforward way, I think this is the kind of soup my grandma would have approved of in her ‘eat your greens‘ and ‘this will put hairs on your chest‘ kind of way….umm, yes I know, we like hairs on our heads, but you get the jist I hope.
This soup depends on really good seasonal produce, slow cooking and allowing it to have nice long rest before you reheat and serve it, so all the flavours mingle, settle and come together deliciously. This is the kind of panful which makes me want to do something energetic outside, work up an appetite in the knowledge of the steaming bowlfuls which await my return.
It is beautifully simple to make, onion is gently sauteed in butter and olive oil, carrot, garlic and squash are added to the meltingly tender onions and allowed to soften. Tomatoes lend colour and flavour to the soup, water or stock volume and a parmesan rind, a bay leaf and just a little rosemary add their magical and aromatic touches. All this is left to bubble and simmer gently for about and hour and a half. Finally beans and cabbage are added, everything is given another lively simmer to produce a thick, rich and fortifying soup stew.
I use speckled borlotti beans, again, for this recipe, their earthy, nutty depth enriches and gives body and starchy thickness to the soup, but you could use cranberry beans, white cannelini, pinto or Fava beans. Fresh beans are superlative for this recipe but dried (which need soaking and precooking) or tinned work very well indeed. For the greens, I prefer to use meaty, flavoursome, black green cavolo nero or the dark green crinkled leaves of savoy cabbage.
This recipe is very much inspired and really an adaption of Nigel Slaters recipe printed in the Observer magazine, it also also borrows heavily from (as do most of my soup recipes) Lindsey Barehams recipe for caldo verde in her brilliant book ‘A celebration of soup‘
A hearty squash and cabbage soup stew.
A thick slice of butter, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 large white onion very finely sliced, 2 plump cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced, 2 carrots, scrubbed and diced roughly, 400g squash flesh cut in rough chunks, 300g tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped, 1 litre of water or stock, parmesan rind, bay leaf, small sprig of fresh rosemary, 400g beans (cooked weight), 3 handfuls of roughly sliced cavolo nero or savoy cabbage, salt and freshly ground black pepper.
If you are using dried beans you will need about 250g and you need to soak them overnight and then precook them at a lively simmer for about 2 hours in plenty of fresh water with a bay leaf until they are tender and cooked through. Fresh beans only need about 30mins at a lively simmer and tinned ones simply need draining and rinsing. Set the beans aside for now.
Warm the butter and oil in a heavy based soup pan and add the onion, over a gentle flame saute until it is soft and translucent. Add the carrot garlic and squash, stir well to coat each chunk and then leave to soften, stirring occasionally for about 10 mins.
Add the tomatoes, bay leaf and rosemary to the pan, stir well and allow to bubble gently for a couple of minutes before adding the water or stock and the parmesan rind.
Turn up the heat and bring the pan to a gentle boil, cover the pan, putting the lid ajar so steam can escape, lower the heat and leave the pan at a gentle simmer for about 1 and a half hours, stirring every now and then.
Once cooked the soup should be dense, thick and robust looking. Add the beans and the cavolo nero or cabbage, stir very well and put the pan back over a lively but gentle flame for another 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and leave it to rest for at least one hour.
Once you are ready to serve reheat the soup as briefly as possible, you don’t want it too hot as the flavours are more pronounced when it is served warm but not boiling.
Serve with plenty of freshly grated parmesan and good crusty bread