This is just the job to warm you up on a freezing cold day – my last post was for a delicious comforting meaty stew however my good friend Liz has asked me for a vegetarian option and I think this would give a beef stew a good run for it’s money any day! One of the nice things about this dish is it is so quick to make plus it is a wonderful way of turning what are pretty much staple ingredients into a really tasty and wholesome meal. The name Ribollita literally means “reboiled”, in fact an authentic Ribollita takes about three days to taste its best – it was a way for thrifty Tuscan cooks to use leftover vegetables, bread and beans from the week.
This is what you and your family need right now on these cold, wintery days. Warm, nutritious and comforting and really easy to make. Adding spinach to the soup has two purposes – it adds nutrients and it also gives the soup a lovely green colour. The fried chorizo cubes lift this ordinary soup into something special – I adore chorizo but you could also use fried bacon pieces or if you want to make it fully vegetarian or vegan just leave these out and use water or vegetable stock instead of the chicken stock.
Preparation: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 30/40 minutes
4 large leeks
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, chopped small
850ml chicken stock (or water for vegetarian / vegan option)
Couple of handfuls of baby spinach leaves (washed and trimmed of any tough stalks)
Chorizo – cut into cubes (or bacon pieces if you prefer – leave out for vegetarian / vegan option)
How to make it:
- Trim off the tops and roots of the leeks, discarding the tough outer layer
- Prepare the leeks by splitting them in half lengthways and slice them up quite finely, then rinse and drain them
- In a large thick-based saucepan melt the butter on a low heat then add the leeks, potatoes and onion, stirring them with a wooden spoon so they get a nice coating of butter
- Season with salt & pepper
- Cover and let the vegetables sweat over a very low heat for about 10/15 minutes – key a very close eye on them so they don’t burn or stick to the bottom (this has happened to me in the past I have to admit!)
- Add the stock and bring to a simmer, put the lid back on and simmer gently for approx. 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
- Add the milk and the spinach leaves and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
- Liquidise the soup using a blender.
Heat the chorizo in a dry non-stick pan for 2/3 minutes (it won’t need any oil as it will release it’s own) until it is nice and crispy to serve. Enjoy!
You have probably guessed already that food is an obsession of mine and plays a kinda big role in my life i.e. if I am not eating it, I am thinking about it! Apart from needing it to stay alive, food can be important to people for many different reasons. For example in our house at the moment it seems that there is a never-ending conveyor belt of different meals required and it is quite the full-time job trying to think of what to feed everyone and keeping the fridge stocked (there is only 4 of us!!). Darling daughter (DD) is in study mode for the Leaving Cert so as well as needing food to keep her fit and healthy, food is a real source of comfort in a gruelling schedule and can often be the highlight of her day. Darling son (DS) plays Senior Football(Gaelic) for which he trains 6 or 7 times a week, needs large amounts of carbs and protein for energy, strength and recovery – he seems to be always foraging in the fridge! This ‘soup’ which is a meal in itself keeps everyone happy whether it is for lunch, pre or post training or for supper. My daughter adores it as do I, it tastes great and takes just 2 minutes to re-heat in the microwave. Perfect for taking to school or work and really easy to make.
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 40 mins
150g (5oz) tinned haricot beans, drained & rinsed in cold water.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 leeks, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
75g pancetta / smoked bacon pieces
1 litre (1½ pints) chicken or vegetable stock
1½ tablespoons tomato purée
1 bay leaf
75g (3oz) tiny pasta shapes
Freshly ground sea salt & black pepper
Grated parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano or Gran Padano) to serve
How to make it!
- Chop / cut the pancetta into small pieces (approx. 2cm) – a scissors works best for this.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan
- Add the chopped onion, garlic, diced leeks, carrots & celery and the bacon pieces.
- Cook for 10 minutes over a low heat without colouring, stirring occasionally.
- Add the drained & rinsed haricot beans to the pan.
- Add the stock and tomato purée and bring to the boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 15/20 minutes until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
- Stir the pasta into the soup and simmer for another 10 minutes until tender, stirring frequently.
- Season to taste
- Serve with parmesan cheese grated over the top.
You have only to look at the colours in this dish to get a nice warm feeling and that it would fit the bill perfectly for lunch on a cold Winter’s day. I made this dish to bring to work for my lunch and I got two of these containers so 2 days’ lunches were sorted. I really like to try and bring my own food to work for at least 2/3 days a week from a healthy eating point of view and also from the cost point of view – I can easily spend €50 a week on good coffee and bad sandwiches! An added bonus is that the ingredients (apart from the fresh coriander) are either store cupboard ingredients i.e. coconut milk, tinned chickpeas or vegetables that have a good shelf life i.e. sweet potato, butternut squash, onion, garlic. These are ingredients that I would always have in the press because they are so versatile and can be used in lots of dishes. This stew is vegetarian and vegan so can go towards one of your weekly meat-free meals.
Preparation time: 10/15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 mins
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp curry powder
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
½ butternut squash, skin / seeds removed and diced
400ml vegetable stock
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Large handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- Place a large pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil.
- Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and sauté gently for 6-8 minutes until tender.
- Add the garlic, turmeric and curry powder and cook for a further 2 minutes
- Add the sweet potato and butternut squash chunks and stir until coated in the spices
- Pour in the vegetable stock, coconut milk and chickpeas
- Bring back to a steady simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.
- Check the seasoning, stir through the coriander *and serve ( could also be served with rice to make a larger meal of it)
*If you are making this like I was to bring to work don’t stir in the coriander until you are re-heating it.
This soup came about by accident when Mr ‘HForT’ came home with two punnets of mushrooms that were being sold for €1 – he does love a bargain! So mushroom soup had to be made. It is one of the easiest, tastiest and quickest soups you will ever make with just a few ingredients – a really simple recipe for anyone to try who hasn’t made soup before, or for children to make.
You will know by now that I am a great fan of soups – so handy to have in the fridge when people come in starving from school, college or work. My teenage daughter polished this off on several days this week when she came in from school. The trick is to leave the mushrooms for a few days before using them, they will be darker in colour and will have much more flavour. If you want to make the soup even tastier use some mixed exotic mushrooms sold in packs in most supermarkets. Also you can make the soup gluten free by substituting the plain flour with rice flour.
I am not one for making New Year resolutions as I find it hard enough to get through the dark and dreary month of January without making it even tougher. Anyway most resolutions tend to be based on things we feel guilty about like eating and drinking too much over Christmas. (Why do we do this to ourselves?!) I would encourage anyone who is considering going on a diet now to scrap the guilt and instead consider being kind to yourself by cooking and eating real food and cutting back on sugar and processed foods. However, making wholesale changes to eating habits can be overwhelming and difficult to do all at once so another approach is to start gradually by focussing on one meal in the day for a start e.g. for the first week / month resolve to eat a good, healthy breakfast or lunch each day. Continue reading
This week’s recipe is a delicious, simple, comforting soup that can be styled / flavoured three different ways! Cauliflower is not a vegetable that excites me, mainly because of it’s colour. However, when one arrived home in the weekly grocery shop recently because it was on “special offer” I was scratching my head as to what to do with it! So I decided to do a little experimentation with the basic soup recipe by making 3 variations from the poor, unloved head of cauliflower! It turns out that the soup is the perfect palate to which flavours can be added to create something that will surprise your taste buds. Continue reading