June 11, 2012

Potato and Tuscan cabbage soup

The long weekend has proven to be wet and cold. When it rains in Sydney is seems to have these constant downpours that go on for days. We are in day two of non stop rain. I miss the rainy days of the tropics when I was a kid.
You'd be on your bike cruisin' the streets with your mates when you saw the black clouds rolling in off the ocean. Sometimes they would just blow out to sea and you were annoyed the burst of rain did not come to release the dry heat in the day. Or, on more that one occasion you'd look up at the sky and quickly try to calculate whether to make a bolt for home or to wait it out under the closest shelter.
The Darwin rain storms I remember were intense, noisy with thunder and over within minutes. I have fond memories of trying to beat a storm when I was about 10-11 years old. I belted around two blocks with the dark sky trying to catch me, however, my legs were like pistons and I hovered inches in front of the darkening sky. I was about 5 metres from home when the sky opened up and dumped what felt like a swimming pool of rain drops on me as I stared at the dry veranda of my home.

It's funny, I don't have a lot of clear memories from my childhood but I can still remember the annoyed feeling of defeat combined with the rich smell of rain when this memory floats into my mind.

Alas, I do not live in the tropics any more and the weather this far south east of Darwin is much colder and incredibly wet, the kind of weather you sit at home and start craving warm, wholesome food. Luckily I stocked the fridge well on Friday so I could have a play in the kitchen this weekend.

I learnt to love Tuscan cabbage or cavalo nero when we were living in Florence a few years ago and living in cold....very cold climates. It is a deep green vegetable that loves to be gently braised and has a rich earthy flavour. Every time I eat it, I just feel better. However, it is a vegetable you have to learn to love when you're one of my kids.
I had some leftover pancetta in the fridge that need to be used up so I slowly started sauteing onions then adding about 5 cloves of smashed garlic and roughly chopped pancetta. Once the fat of the pancetta started to go transparent I added a bunch of roughly chopped Tuscan cabbage with salt and pepper. So all the flavour stays in the vegetable I placed a lid on top, while it wilted down and absorbed the flavours of the pancetta and garlic.

Diced carrots were added to the soup base and then 4-5 large potatoes roughly cut. I leave the skins on, of course you can peel them for a smoother texture. After sauteing the base for a further 5 minutes I then added a couple pieces of parmesan skin (always save that last bit of rind when you've grated all the cheese for just such occasions) and then topped the soup pot up with cold water. Once you bring it to a boil with the lid off, skim the top, reduce the heat to a medium-to-low and leave it to reduce down.

When the potatoes have broken down and the smell is rich and wholesome turn off your soup and leave to steep for about 10 minutes before you serve. To make our lunch even more exciting I had some raclette cheese in the fridge from a previous dinner party. That combined with cheddar cheese and then melted on Turkish bread was the absolute perfect rainy, damp and cold long weekend holiday lunch!

I have to be honest and tell you the boys were not impressed with the dark green leaves in the soup. Max dared to try it and actually enjoyed it, Alex however, refused to like it (without even tasting it!) and then tried to pick out all the potato while asking why we didn't just have noodles for lunch? I think a few more bowls of this soup over winter should set him straight......or make him really hungry and stubborn. I'll just have to wait and see but one thing was certain, the melted cheesy toast was a big hit!


Susie said...

I love your story about your childhood. Did you grow up in Australia? And where would the tropical area be? Here, South always means tropical. Summer so far hasn't been terrible, so I am not yet thinking about those chilly fall soup days, but I know I will think about this soup when they come! It sounds, and I know it smells...heavenly!

Jessie K said...

Aaah, those were the good ole days. Time flies, doesn't it? Glad to know you're kicking but in Oz but was there any doubt? Love the new site, CB!