One of my favorite Christmas gifts from the Hubby was “Tender” by Nigel Slater.
It is an impressive ode to the vegetable and many, many ways to prepare the veggies.
During New Year’s weekend, I had some extra time and made this stew for the hubby’s lunch. It took about 6 hours from start to finish (I forgot to soak the beans, if you ever forget to do that, use the method found on The Paupered Chef. But, I was home anyway, the Patriots had a game that day, I was busy with laundry…so, I could handle chopping and stirring.
This stew calls for cavolo nero, which is black cabbage, a form of kale. I just used regular cabbage. My husband said that out of all the soups he has ever had, this is his favorite.
Also, if you have a leftover ham bone from Thanksgiving or Christmas, this is a wonderful way to use it. If you don’t have a ham bone, call up your local butcher or Honeybaked Ham store. Chances are, they’ll have one they can sell you on the cheap. By the time I finished simmering my stew, a lot of the ham had fallen away from the bone (it was a really meaty one) and had flavored the stew with no need for additional salt.
It’s important to note that I used diced unsalted tomatoes and unsalted vegetable broth in place of the water.
I also bought a sixteen ounce bag of beans-I went ahead and cooked them and stuck half in the freezer for another use and used half for this recipe.
Also, I’d like to mention this: If you love British writing and their unique style that I find so intoxicating, you will love this book. It looks like a book from the old school days. Cloth binding, ribbon marker, and captivating writing style. I simply adore it.
A Soup-Stew of Beans and Cabbage from “Tender” by Nigel Slater
dried beans, such as cannellini(I used cannellini) or borlotti-8 ounces
pancetta in the piece (5 ounces) (I used bacon here)
large onions (2)
garlic (2 large cloves, chopped) (I put mine through a press)
tomatoes-14 ounces, chopped (I used diced, canned, tomatoes)
water or vegetable stock (I used vegetable stock)
a small butternut squash or pumpkin (I used butternut squash)
a meaty ham bone or knuckle of prosciutto (I used a ham bone-I think mine may have been REALLY meaty!)
a short length of rind from a lump of Parmesan
flat leaf parsley-a handful, coarsely chopped (I somehow overlooked this one….)
cavolo nero-2 large handfuls, or half a small cabbage, cut into wedges (I shredded mine, like you would for coleslaw)
Soak the beans overnight in deep, cold water (or use the method I mentioned from The Paupered Chef). Drain, put them in a large, deep saucepan, and cover them with fresh water. Bring to a boil, then remove the froth from the surface with a slotted spoon. Drop in the bay leaves and a tablespoon or so of olive oil and let boil merrily for forty five minutes to an hour, until tender (older beans take a little longer). Add salt to the water about twenty minutes before the end of cooking. Drain and set aside. (Nigel says that he sometimes puts a shot of olive oil over the beans at this point to prevent them from sticking together.) (Also, be sure to remove the bay leaves from the beans.)
Cut the pancetta into short lengths or fat cubes, put them in a deep pan with a couple spoonfuls of oil, and set over medium heat, Peel the onions, halve them, and slice them thinly. Once the pancetta has begun to sizzle, add the onions and stir them from time to time until they soften.
Scrub the carrots, cut them into a large dice, and add to the onions with the garlic, let everything soften without coloring, lowering the heat as and when you need to. Add the tomatoes and let them soften and melt a little into the other vegetables before pouring in water or stock. Peel and coarsely chop the squash or pumpkin and stir it in.
Now is the time to add the ham bone and Parmesan rind. Either one will make a huge difference to the finished flavor. Bring the soup almost to a boil. Then decrease the heat so that it simmers gently. Cover with a lid but set it askew, so that some of the steam escapes. Let simmer, with only the occasional stir, for an hour and a half, by which time the soup should be thick, rich, and heavy. (Even though the directions did not state to do this, I removed the ham bone and the Parmesan rind at this point.)
Add the beans to the pot along with the parsley and cabbage leaves. Continue cooking for ten to fifteen minutes. (I had to turn up the heat a little to return the pot to a slow boil.) Serve with grated Parmesan. This soup/stew is stated to serve 4-6. I was able to get 8 servings!