torn out

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I was, for some years, a serial ripper-outer. It was in the days when the food section in newspapers was minor; a paragraph, possibly a line drawing and a good, usually un-fussy recipe that you may well make that night. And I did, supper cooked according to a column, the paper curling in the steam of it all. These torn strips, many the brilliant Lindsay Bareham writing in the Evening Standard, were as much a part of my cooking education as lessons from my mum, my cookbooks and Keith Floyd on the telly. Somewhere in one of the boxes in my parent’s garage –  that I really need to deal with – is a fat bundle, by now yellowed, the paper clip probably sunk so deeply that its rusty mark is branded. Somewhere in that bundle are the recipes for white bean humus I made most weeks for about a year, tasty breaded lamb chops (if I remember correctly there were capers in the mix, which felt racy) and potato and herb soup.

The potato and herb soup was a recipe I ripped from a newspaper on a tube, probably on the circle line. I followed the recipe in the kitchen of my flat on Paddington street, which means it was 1998 or 99 and I’d recently left Drama school with swagger and dread. I can’t remember what had gone on that day, but it required the comforting embrace and soporific effects of something warm and savory – and plenty of it – eaten with a spoon. I will have bought the herbs from one of the middle eastern shops on Chiltern street, cursed the kitchen door that opened inwards in front of the fridge several times during the cooking, and eaten the soup sitting on the rug because I didn’t have a table. My shoulders dropped and my stomach unraveled, the torn strip won a place under a fridge magnet until I moved.

I still turn to potato soup, often. Actually these days it is usually pasta e patate, which is best described as a simple potato soup in which you cook a pasta, a minestra to be eaten with a spoon. This is the ideal recipe for an old style recipe column, the this is what you should have for super sort: take an onion, a carrot, a rib of celery, a bay leaf and  a couple of potatoes, chop and sweat the lot gently in olive oil, add water and simmer, add pasta and simmer more, tweak with salt, pepper and grated pecorino. I am tempted to say this soup is a sum far greater than its parts, but that makes it sound grand and it isn’t. It is neat though, the potato collapsing into a starchy, almost silky stock in which you cook the pasta, the starch of which thickens everything further. Thickens, but not too much, after all this is all about eating with a spoon. My shoulders drop and stomach unravels at the very thought of this.

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pasta e patate 

You could of course add pancetta or use stock of some kind if you really want.

enough for two

  • an onion
  • a rib of celery
  • a medium carrot
  • a bay leaf
  • a big potato
  • olive oil
  • 100 g pasta (short or broken spaghetti)
  • salt, pepper and pecorino

Peel the onion and carrot and then dice along with the celery. Peel and cut the potato into chunks. Warm some olive oil in a heavy based pan over a medium low heat, then fry the onion, carrot and celery (along with a pinch of salt) until soft and translucent. Add the bay leaf and the potatoes, stir and then fry for a couple of minutes more. Add a liter of water and another pinch of salt, bring to a lively simmer and the reduce to a gentle simmer for 15 mins or until the potato is soft – you can break it up sightly with back of a wood spoon. Add the pasta, raise the heat slightly and cook for another 10 minutes or so or until the pasta is cooked, stirring and adding a little more water if it looks to be getting too thick. Taste for salt and grind over some black pepper. Serve immediately with some grated pecorino stirred in if you like.

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30 Comments

Filed under minestra, soup

30 responses to “torn out

  1. I have torn out hundreds of recipes . I loved this post.

  2. Rachel,

    Love this soup. I too have my own collection of scrapsand my mother’s collection too (and the family’s annotated Radiation cookery book). I remember loving Keith Floyd on the telly and thinking his first book a a real inspiration, but Graham Kerr was the TV chef who turned me; if I’m honest it was in part the cooking, but perhaps more significantly the fact that at the end he invited a woman out of the audience to share his creation – I now knew there was a purpose to being good at cooking!

    Bacci, Richard

  3. I so enjoy your posts, they´re so real!😉

  4. Love it. I have folders of old, torn out recipes from all sorts of places – aeroplanes, waiting rooms, stray magazines on a holiday resort. They more often inspire me than the expensive cookbooks I sometimes buy!

  5. Love this. Somehow my ‘torn out” recipes found their way into a file – who knew I was that organised! Two fat folders on the bookshelf now.

  6. I have torn out recipes also!😉

  7. Trina

    This soup sounds so comforting.

    My favorite vegetarian chili recipe originated from a torn out recipe.

  8. Beautifully written. I also have a soft spot for potato minestra; this post captures its simple, no-frills essence.

  9. laura

    Ciao, Rachel! Trips down memory lane – that’s what you described so clearly and so well and that’s what torn-out recipes (and their colleagues, the scraps of paper with hastily written notes capturing the salient points of a delicious dish prepared by a friend or relative) mean to me. I’m drooling at the thought of this soup … and over those exquisite photos. Thank you!

  10. Amber

    I know what my 7 year old and I are having for lunch tomorrow! Thanks Rachel:-)

  11. You always make me want to be right there in your kitchen with you, Rachel.

  12. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Eating well and without undue fuss day in and day out.

  13. The soup looks great! Ripper-Outer, the original Pinterest board I would say.

  14. When Rachel eats, so do the rest of us. Nice recipe. I used to cut out recipes wherever I saw an interesting one and I meant to get around to trying them out one day. You’re one of the few I know who actually followed them up. Clever girl.

  15. Great post and yes I agree with Chika, ripper-outer is the original Pinterest Board.🙂

  16. I’m a ripper outer but all my pieces are just loose in a file as never got around to organising them! I always go back to a mushroom soup recipe, I think it’s always the comfort foods:)

  17. Toffeeapple

    That is tonight’s supper sorted then, thank you very much.
    Most of my ripped out recipes are from the early 70s to the mid 80s and I look at them from time to time but, I no longer buy breast of lamb for 28p each. They were tasty though when we could afford little else.

  18. victoria2nyc

    I made this soup for lunch today, the only change being that I substituted a leek for celery, which I did not have on hand. Right before serving I ground a healthy amount of pepper over it and showered it with pecorino. It was splendid; a comforting lunch on our first cool day with autumn in full swing. This is a keeper for sure. As always, thanks. xoxo

  19. I too was a fellow ripper-outer. Thinking about it is actually making me a bit sad… There was a time when all of my recipes were on paper. Some written by my mother on recipe cards, some notes I made while my Dad explained one of his meals to me, some written by friends or friend’s mothers…and then those torn from newspapers and magazines. And cookbooks, of course. Although I love what you do here, I’m looking forward to reading your recipes and notes in your book, on paper. xx

  20. pblevitt

    Reading this, the ripping out of recipes brought back so many personal recollections. Those tattered pages that have made to journey to the west coast bring back a flood of memories.

    This recipe so reminds me of something my grandmother would prepare for us on cold rainy days – thank you.

  21. I have folders and folders of recipes, ripped from magazines and newspapers , copied from friends and those handwritten recipe cards have a special place. These tattered pages have so many memories.
    Another beautiful post with a nourishing soup. Thank you !

  22. A very simple but very satisfying dish. I just got rid of huge collections of torn out recipes when we were packing to move. Many of the recipes I knew by heart so it was time to let go of them.

  23. That sounds delicious. Pasta is delicious, no matter how you make it, but this recipe looks especially good!🙂

  24. Caroline in San Francisco

    Thank you for the recipe. Easy to make. I found adding a bit of beef bouillon added more “umami” to the broth. Delicious, and even better the day after.

  25. It looks really well. Thanks for it🙂

  26. I’ll make this tomorrow. And it’s about time I too sorted out the yellowing collection of recipes-from-newspapers. Last time I did that, I chucked most of them out. I need to be more selective….

  27. Brady

    Glad to hear I am in good company with my bits of ripped out newspapers and magazine pieces..they are somewhat organized, and have not made all of them but hope springs eternal nonetheless….and this soup will be on deck for this autumn..perfect cold afternoon comfort….

  28. I love the characterization as a serial ripper-outer! I too hoard bulging folders of magazine and newspaper pages. Your simple soup recipe sounds great. I’ve made plenty of potato-leek soups, but never considered adding pasta…brilliant! Thanks for sharing.

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