[About the New Years' resolution behind this]
A few years ago, my aunt gave me an Italian cookbook - Simply Italian, by Sophie Baimbridge - by which I was immediately intimidated. So I've never used it except to make foccaccia bread. But today I opened it - reluctantly - and yet I knew it was about time. I found a recipe that looked fairly simplistic although not overly appetising, and off I went. Eleven down, six to go.
Bean and barley soup, served with fresh bread rolls. Turned out to be remarkably tasty for something that looks so puritanical.
Since I discovered that breadmaker bread tastes better if you use it to make the dough, and then stick it in the oven, I've been overly excited about eating fresh bread rolls with my meals. It means you have to allow 2 hours 20 mins for the dough to be ready, but you can always set the timer before you go to work in the morning so that it'll be ready when you get home. MmMM! I brush mine with a little beaten egg, and then sprinkle sesame seeds or some grated cheese on top.
As for the soup, here is the recipe. It claims to serve four but this is a hefty, filling soup, especially with bread, and it served five of us easily.
200 g / 7 oz dried borlotti beans (I used a can of butter beans)
2 T olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1.5 litres chicken stock (I used vegetable stock because of my vegetarian flatmate)
1 T finely chopped thyme or sage
200 g / 7 oz pearl barley
100 g / 3.5 oz Parmesan, grated
1 T finely chopped parsley
4 teaspoons extra olive oil
If you are not using canned, pre-soaked beans: Soak the borlotti beans in cold water overnight. Drain off the water and put the beans in a large saucepan with plenty of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender. (This will take about 1 hour depending on the age of the beans.) Drain.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, and cook the onion over a low heat for 6 minutes, or until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook without browning for 20-30 seconds. Add the stock and thyme or sage and bring to the boil.
Stir in the barley a little at a time so that the stock continues to boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the borlotti beans and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the barley is tender and the soup is thick.
Purée one-third of the soup until smooth, leaving the remainder unpuréed to give the soup some texture. (I just stuck a whizz-stick in and didn't process for too long.) Return to the saucepan and stir in the Parmesan and parsley. Season and stir in half a cup to a cup of hot water to give a spoonable consistency. Serve immediately, with a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil stirred through each bowl.
MMMM!!! This was wintry and cosy and warm and very, very filling. It did not turn out at all how I expected it to. A big thumbs-up. Maybe I shouldn't be so intimidated by this book in future...