Category Archives: vegetarian

Wacky Watermelon

How time flies! We have already entered the second half of summer, having passed the longest day which seems to have come round faster than ever this year.

It may be the second half of summer but I’m still prowling around the courgettes plants waiting for them to spring into action, ditto with our broad beans and the tomatoes haven’t a notion of ripening yet. Luckily everything is looking healthy and with time we’ll have the usual gluts.

Meanwhile I’ve been obsessing about watermelons. This is in addition to my barbecuing obsession as I have this memory of a dish we ate whilst travelling 

in Mexico. Long ago, before the lockdown, we were in Campeche on the Yucatan peninsula where I ate the most amazing grilled watermelon. It was one of the most memorable dishes that I had on that trip, maybe because it was so surprising. I ordered it as it sounded so odd. Grilled Watermelon Fillet with Recado Rojo. It came to the table, king of the plate with little piles of pickled vegetables and avocado around it. Pretty as a picture and the flavour and texture was so surprising. Later that day I  had the good fortune to pick the chefs brains and I jotted down the recipe, gram for gram in my notebook where it lounged until this summer when I bought my barbie.

I was slightly trepidatious the first time that I made it as good memories have been known to trick the taste buds but the recipe worked. Spot on and very simple, which truth be told is what you need for a barbecue. 

There is one small hitch – the recipe uses achiote paste, which is known as Recado Rojo in the Yucatan. Achiote is made from seeds of the annato plant, a small tropical evergreen plant that grows in Mexico. It’s an orange/red spice which smells a little peppery and tastes slightly earthy, sweet and nutty . I have a box of achiote which I bought home with me but I know it’s not always available, there’s not a lot where we live, so I googled for alternatives and came up with a recipe that has  accessible ingredients and is a good substitute. 

This recipe involves a little forward prep – the watermelon needs to be marinated for twenty four hours – but the beauty of this is that when it comes to the day of the barbecue all the work is done. Just put the watermelon on the grill, resist poking it until it’s lightly charred then flip, cook the  other side and serve.  We ate ours with lightly pickled cucumber and mint. 

Grilled Watermelon Fillet with Recado Rojo 

Serves 6

1 small watermelon 

25g achiote/recado rojo/or the paste below

200mls white wine vinegar

500mls water

4g salt

2g cracked black pepper

Homemade Recado Rojo/Achiote paste substitute

1 ½ tsp sweet paprika

1tbs white wine vinegar

¾ tsp oregano

¼ tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp turmeric

2 cloves garlic, peeled and very finely chopped

Mix all of the ingredients to a smooth paste.

First peel the water melon.

Using a sharp knife slice off the top and the bottom of the melon.  Place the melon on the chopping board bottom side down, this will give you a steady melon to work with. Carefully peel the melon rind away, cutting downwards then turn the melon over and repeat.

Chop the peeled melon into half then chop each half into 4cm slices.

Mix 25g of the achiote/recardo Rojo paste together in a fairly big bowl with the vinegar until it has dissolved then add the water and salt and pepper. 

Submerge the watermelon slices by carefully arranging them in the bowl – it will be quite a snug fit . Cover and leave aside in a cool place for 24hours.

To cook the melon fire up the barbecue or heat a grill pan

Take the melon from the marinade, shake off excess marinade then place on a hot grill. Grill each side for 2-3 minutes until nicely charred.

Serve with little piles of pickled cucumber.

Lightly Pickled Cucumber and Mint

1 cucumber

100mls white wine vinegar

2tbs sugar

½ tsp salt

A bunch of fresh mint.

Put the vinegar, sugar and salt into a bowl then mix together to dissolve

Peel the cucumbers, cut them in half lengthwise then remove the seeds with spoon.

Place the cucumber on a chopping board then cut into skinny slices on the diagonal.

Strip the mint from the stems and chop finely.

Put the mint and cucumber into the vinegar mix and toss well. Leave aside for at least 15 minutes.

The photos above where not taken on a barbecue as whenever I’ve made barbecues I’m been too busy cooking and socialising to take many pictures but here’s a photo to prove that we do have one!


Asparagus Days are Here

Our glasshouse is bursting at the seams and the only picture I have of it is photo of myself and a friend enjoying a breakout glass of wine – Semi al fresco, the door was open

There are crowds of seedlings waiting to move to a more spacious location to continue growing. We have just re-covered the tunnel that was destroyed in one of the winter storms so the tomatoes can relocate and the other tunnel is full of infant spinach, chard, herbs and baby beans.

The potatoes are peeping up and the fruit trees are in blossom. It’s such an exciting time of the year in a garden yet the pickings are fairly slim as last years green crops shoot for the sky and go to seed and the new ones aren’t quite ready to be picked.

One vegetable that’s coming into season is Irish asparagus. Sadly we don’t have any in our garden anymore – I dug it up in frustration. After several years of nursing the plants and trying to keep them weed free then only getting a couple of spears at a time I gave up.  I should have researched growing asparagus before wasting so much time as I have discovered that not only do the seedlings need three years on a weed free bed, it also hates slugs and needs warmth and sunshine – a minimum of eight hours sunshine a day! 

I take my hat off to the Irish growers who supply us with this seasonal treat as it takes so much time and effort and ideally a tunnel or covered growing area that is designated to this use.

The Irish asparagus season is short, there are six weeks in May/June when these plants do their thing, growing up to 18cms in a day and funnily enough it’s the male plants that shoot up the spears, the female plants provide the seeds – kind of reverse to humans.

I always enjoy the asparagus when it’s in season here in Ireland. It’s such a seasonal treat and one of the most nutritionally balanced vegetables packed with vitamins and antioxidants.

It’s best cooked simply. My favourite way is grilling on a cast iron pan but I have also discovered roasting in a very hot oven can produce a similar result. The heat seals in the flavours and the asparagus still has a little bite.

We have plenty of fresh eggs and a big bunch of Dunworely asparagus at hand so this month’s recipe is a plate of roasted asparagus over Puy lentils with herb hollandaise. The lentils are simply cooked then seasoned with salt and dressed with the best olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar to brighten them up.

Sublime!! It’s very easy to prepare and well worth seeking out the local asparagus for, infinitely superior to asparagus that has been flown half way round the world and sold for next to nothing. Help save the planet, buy local!

Roasted Asparagus with Puy Lentils and Herb Hollandaise

Serves 3-4

1 bunch asparagus –  4 spears per person

200g ripe cherry tomatoes

200g Puy lentils

200g butter

2 egg yolks

Juice of half a juicy lemon

A handful of fresh soft herbs – chives, basil and/or chervil

Salt and cracked black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Pre-heat the oven 220c

Put the lentils into a saucepan and cover with at least twice as much water. Bring to the boil, turn to simmer then cook for 20 minutes. Check them by tasting a couple and if they are still a little hard cook for 1-2  minutes longer but be careful as they should be just done. Drain the lentils, rinse with hot water then dress with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar and a little salt. Put the lid back on to keep them warm and put aside.

Whilst the lentils are cooking prepare the asparagus. Wash the spears then trim the woody end. You could snap them but I usually lightly run a sharp knife over the stem working from the stalk up and the knife cuts like butter as soon as you pass the woody bit. Line a baking tray that’s big enough to accommodate the asparagus in one layer with parchment paper. Dry the spears then put them in the tray and drizzle over olive oil. Sprinkle over a little salt and cracked pepper then roll them about so they are all lightly dressed,.

Wash the tomatoes and dry then put them into a baking tray with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.

Put the tomatoes and asparagus into the oven and set the timer for 7 minutes, toss both then cook for a further 5 minutes.

The Hollandaise is made using a held blender which is a clever trick – no whisking over a bain-marie, just instant Hollandaise.

Put the egg yolks into the beaker or a jug with the lemon juice.

Gently melt the butter and heat until hot.

Chop the herbs finely

Put the blender into the beaker and buzz the yolks and lemon juice together. Add the hot butter in a slow steady stream. When it has emulsified season with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped herbs. If it is too thick, thin with a little warm water. If you are not ready to serve you can keep the sauce warm by putting the jug into a bowl of hot water.

To assemble the dinner put a big spoonful of lentils onto each plate, lay the asparagus on top and pour a little hollandaise across. Put the roasted tomatoes around the sides.


Giant Cauliflowers Make Giant Cakes

Finally our cauliflowers have arrived, there’s a colony of them and some are seriously big.

We have waited so long. I was convinced we would have caulis for Xmas but nope, nothing happened . We just had these huge plants on long stems that seemed to be in some kind of animated suspension and now, all at once they are emerging. It’s far from the first cauliflowers that we have grown but usually they arrive rather inconveniently in August or are very welcome in October and November. Last years lockdown meant we got our seeds where we could and I must have picked up this winter variety. I’ve now checked it out and discovered that winter cauliflowers take 40-50 weeks to mature which is quite some time to nurture a vegetable but they are so welcome. A joy to the eye and they’re going to be exciting to eat, or perhaps I should say a challenge.

We regularly make cauliflower fritters and cauliflower pakoras which are both delicious but last night I broke out and and made a cauliflower Sfomato with the enormous cauliflower that I had picked. Sformato looks like a cake which has a touch of a soufflé to it. It’s also enormous, enough to feed 6- 8 for dinner or 4 for dinner and 4 for lunch!

I have feeling we’re going to have cauliflowers coming out of our ears!

Cauliflower Sformato

1 large cauliflower

olive oil to roast the cauliflower

2 red onions, peeled and chopped

90g butter

90g flour – I used rice flour as it’s gluten free

800mls milk

6 eggs

75g grated parmesan or mature cheddar, grated

1tbs Dijon mustard

1/2tsp smoked paprika

Pre heat the oven 190c

Line the base and sides of a 24-26cm loose bottomed cake tin

Break the cauliflower into even sized florets and toss with little olive oil and salt. Spread out on a large baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. leave aside to cool a little then chop small.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan (mine was little small) then stir in the flour. Cook gently for a few minutes then begin to add the milk. Do this in stages, whisking the milk and roux(flour mix) until it comes together in one mass before adding a little more. You will end up with a fairly thick sauce. Season with salt and cracked black pepper. Stir the chopped cauliflower, smoked paprika, mustard and grated cheese.

Check the seasoning then pour into the prepared tin.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Leave to rest for a few minutes before removing the tin and serving.

It’s not going to win a beauty contest but very tasty!


Spring into Dumplings

In between storms and torrential rain the green things are struggling to come back, valiantly pushing ahead anytime there’s a ray of sunshine. Spinach, chard, rocket, nettles, wild garlic are all growing again. Most of our spinach and chard have weathered the winter outside. At one point, when it froze for a week it looked like they might lose the will to live, their leaves were sad and frost burnt but somehow they rallied on and now look like they’re good to go. The nettles and wild garlic are just emerging and the rocket is as always surging ahead but as the rocket’s in the tunnel it does have an advantage. 

We have learnt from previous winters that it’s always good to have a stash of green things in the tunnel so late each August we plant up little beds of spinach, rocket and kale just to make sure we have a supply of these useful greens.

The new glasshouse is slowly filling up with seedlings and by Easter it will be bursting at the seams and we’ll be off again. Another year in the garden.

I wanted to make a recipe with wild garlic but as I write this there are very slim pickings out there so I’ve modified my plan. What was going to be ricotta gnocchi with wild garlic pesto has morphed into ricotta gnocchi with rocket pesto. It could just as easily been kale pesto or nettle pesto but as I have a choice and I particularly enjoy the fresh pepperiness of rocket, rocket it is. Classic pesto is made with basil but it can in fact be made with a huge variety of tasty leaves. 

The recipe for pesto is pretty fluid – olive oil, nuts/seeds, cheese, garlic and herb/leaves of you choice. I often put in a little lemon juice which prevents the pesto from going Gollum green if it’s not used quickly – it also brightens up the flavours.

Ricotta gnocchi are very easy to make unlike potato gnocchi which take a little more effort. They are often called malfatti (badly made) as they don’t have a  uniform shape – all part of their inner beauty! Just get yourself some of our wonderful local ricotta and a clean bowl and you’re nearly there!.

Ricotta Gnocchi 

250g ricotta

1 egg

nutmeg

50g semolina

75g grated Parmesan cheese

salt and black pepper

Put the ricotta into a bowl and beat together with the egg.

Season with a little grated nutmeg and salt and pepper.

Stir in the semolina, this will give you a soft mass that should hold together

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil then turn down to simmer. It’s important the water is a quiet simmer as a rolling boil will cause too much agitation and the gnocchi will break apart. 

Wet your hands to prevent the mix from sticking to them then form small balls with the mixture and gently slip them into the water. Leave the gnocchi to cook for a few minutes and when the gnocchi rise back to the surface they are ready. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain any excess water before plating or putting in a serving bowl.

Drizzle the pesto over the gnocchi and serve immediately.

Serves 2-3 

Rocket and Pumpkin Seed Pesto

15g pumpkin seed

50g rocket

25g Parmesan cheese

1-2 cloves garlic

100ml olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt

Heat a dry pan and gently toast the pumpkin seeds.

Roughly chop the garlic and rocket

Place the pumpkin seeds,  garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, rocket, parmesan and salt into a  jug and using a hand held blender blitz to a smooth sauce. 

Check the seasoning and the pesto is ready . Use what you need then put the remainder into a small pot and pour a little olive oil over the top. This will stop the pesto from oxidising. Store in the fridge and use within the week. Delicious with pasta, grilled vegetables, meat, fish…..perks up everything.


Bright Food for a Dirty Day

Today was not an outside day.

A big wind, very cold and occasional snow flurries, which is a romantic way of describing West Cork’s attempt at snow which is really large drops of frozen rain. After a quick run around to feed the chickens I was back inside again.

It was the perfect day to hang out in the kitchen.

I spent the morning trying a couple of new recipes then turned my eyes to lunch.

We are still ploughing through our rapidly deteriorating frozen by mistake pumpkins. At this stage the chickens are getting as much of each pumpkin as we are but we’re getting places. We’ve been eating them in many guises, today’s collaboration was with beetroots and coconut which made a delicious and warming soup full of antioxidants to beat the bugs

Beetroot, Pumpkin and Ginger Soup

1 large red onion

75mls olive oil

2 sticks celery

300g pumpkin

450g beetroots

1 finger of fresh ginger

700mls vegetable stock

200ml coconut milk

Peel and chop the onion. Heat a pot, add a little olive oil and the onion then cook on a medium heat. Cut the celery lengthways then dice into small pieces. Add to the pot and give a stir.

Peel the pumpkin and chop into chunks, then peel the beetroot and chop into a dice – the beetroots are going to take longer than the pumpkin to cook. Stir these both into the pot and season with a little salt. keep cooking on a medium heat, reducing the heat if they begin to brown or stick.

Peel the ginger and chop small. Add to the the vegetables, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Stir in the coconut milk then buzz everything to a smooth puree. It should be good and soupy but if it’s too thick thin with little water. Season with salt and black pepper and you’re ready to go.

Some fresh chopped herbs would be good but I wasn’t heading off outside to pick any!


A Little Sunny Crunch

Winter slaws are the business when you crave something to give yourself a boost, They are bright and crunchy and made with vegetables that don’t mind wintery weather.No need to use fragile jetlagged vegetables as local seasonal vegetables are perfect to shred and dress. The bright oranges, greens and purples are like sunshine in a bowl.

The key ingredients for a slaw are usually some kind of cabbage – red or green and then whatever you have or fancy in the line of  fennel, beetroots, carrots, radishes, onions, endive etc. Apples, oranges, mangoes and pears also make good additions as do toasted nuts and seeds . They can be dressed with vinaigrettes or creamy mayonnaise. The options are endless so you can let your imagination go riot. 

This recipe is for a simple slaw that I made today from our vegetable basket and the remaining red cabbage in the garden. Salting the cabbage briefly makes the cabbage sweat and the juices run, softening the cabbage to a delightful succulent crunch. Ditto with the fennel.

Half a small red cabbage

1 fennel bulb

1 red onion

1 pear

1tsp sugar

2tbs white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar

Salt

1tsp Dijon mustard

100mls olive oil

Finely shred the red cabbage – discard the core. Sprinkle it with a little salt, toss well then leave it aside for 10 – 15 minutes. 

Finely slice the fennel and toss with a little salt. Leave aside for 10 – 15minutes

Peel and finely slice the red onion, sprinkle a little salt over then massage until the rings separate. Put the sugar into a bowl, whisk in the vinegar then toss the onions in the mix. Leave aside for 10-15 minutes

Peel and chop the pear.

Put the cabbage onto a clean cloth or kitchen roll then dry well to remove excess liquid and salt, tip into a bowl the repeat the process with the fennel.

Put all the vegetables except for the onions into a big bowl.

Drain the pickling liquid from the onions and use this as  a base for the vinaigrette

Add the onions to the big bowl.

Whisk a teaspoon of Dijon mustard into the onion vinegar then slowly whisk in the olive oil

Pour the dressing over the vegetables then toss everything together. 

The slaw is ready to eat but it’ll also sit happily in the fridge for a day or two.


Blow Your Socks Off Lemon Chilli Sauce

I have finally taken the lemon drop chillies out of the bucket they were sitting so prettily in and am converting them to chilli sauce.

Half are sitting fermenting on the kitchen counter and the rest I made into chilli sauce yesterday

It was quite an epic heat ride.

I chopped the stalks from the lemon drop chillies, peeled red onion and garlic and put them into a saucepan with enough water to cover them, bought them to the boil then simmered for fifteen minutes.

After draining them I buzzed them in the food processor until they were smooth. I made the mistake of taking a good sniff of the salsa to enjoy the aroma – it blew me across the room.

The initial tasting was soooo hot that realistically not many people were going to eat it. I added a mango hoping it would stretch the heat but it didn’t seem to have much effect. I then sieved the sauce in the hope that removing the seeds would do the trick.

Wooo, still extremely hot !

I then incrementally added in

light muscovado sugar ,

honey,

white balsamic vinegar

another mango

and we finally seemed to be smoothing out the edges.

Phew I was getting worried!

It’s a chilli sauce to use with caution but perfect for chilli heads – like good habanero sauce and it’s a fab colour!

I’m not sure what to do with the fermenting chillies …. any ideas?


Pumpkin, Harry’s Nut Butter and Tamarind

We have a shed full of pumpkins to eat.

They were damaged by last weeks freezing weather. We don’t often get freezing weather here in West Cork and by the time we thought of the pumpkins it was too late so it’s pumpkin in everything right now.

Today’s soup was livened up by a couple of spoonfuls of Harry’s Nut Butter and a swirl of tamarind.

HNB is an Irish addiction made by the aforementioned Harry with nuts (obv) that’s slightly sweet, kind of salty and a little bit spicy and lifts the soup to a ‘where am I’ level. If you don’t have access to HNB tart up some peanut or cashew butter with a little smoked paprika, maple syrup and tamari or even miso. Actually the possibilities are endless…..

Pumpkin Soup with HNB and Tamarind

1 onion – peeled and chopped

75mls olive oil

1-2 stems celery – diced

500-600g pumpkin – peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic – peeled and finely chopped

200g diced tomatoes or half a can chopped tomatoes

2tbs red lentils ( heaped not level)

750mls stock

2 generous tbs HNB or PB

1 tbs tamarind

salt and pepper

Heat a medium/large saucepan, add the olive oil and chopped onions. Give them a stir then turn the heat to medium.

Cut the celery into quarters lengthwise then chop into a dice. Stir in with th onions.

Peel the pumpkin and chop into a rough dice – doesn’t need to be too small. Add to the pot and stir well. Season with a little salt. Cook for five minutes without browning then add the chopped garlic, stir for a minute or two then add in the tomatoes. If you’re using fresh tomatoes let them cook down. If you are using canned just stir them in . Add the vegetable stock and the red lentils. Taste, season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in the nut butter and tamarind and mix well.

Buzz the soup until smooth and check the seasoning.

Serve with a swirl of creme fraiche and chopped herbs – I have chervil right now but parsley or coriander would be good too.


Excited About Chickpeas

I’m not sure where the chickpeas we can usually obtain come from but generally they are old. Old and hard and take a very long time to cook so when I saw that the olive guys in our local Neighbourhood Food had imported chickpeas and pinto beans I had to try them.

I’m always on the lookout for good chickpeas – I’m possibly one of the only people that travel home from Spain with dried chickpeas in my bag. A true chickpea geek. Big fat chickpeas that only take 30-40 minutes to cook make me very happy. They obviously haven’t been sitting about in dusty depots for months on end.

I cooked some of the above prize chickpeas this morning after soaking them overnight. The weather was awful – torrential rain – it seemed pretty obvious that what we needed was warming sustenance so I made this dish. I’m never quite sure whether it’s a soup or a stew but the recipe is an old favourite. Sometimes I make it with spinach and sometimes with kale, depending on what I have and on the tomato front just use the best you have – fresh or canned. One thing is for sure – you will have a delicious bowl of bright nutrition to beat the rainy day blues.

And the new chickpeas cooked up a dream.

Chickpeas, Spinach and Coriander

250g dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight – or 2 cans

2 onions – peeled and finely chopped

100mls olive oil

2 stems celery- diced

3-4 carrots- peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic- peeled and finely chopped

1-2 chillies (Optional) – chopped finely

2 big tomatoes or 1 can – chopped

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground coriander

800mls vegetable stock/chickpea liquor

1 bunch spinach or kale – 2 big hanfdfuls when shredded

1 bunch fresh coriander – parsley or chervil work too if that’s what you have

salt and black pepper

Put the chickpeas to cook. Drain and cover with water. Bring to the boil then cover and turn to a simmer. Cook until tender – anything between 30 mins and 3 hours , depending on the vintage of your chickpeas. Take off the heat and reserve the cooking liquor.

Heat a large saucepan then add the olive oil and chopped onions followed by the celery and carrots . I chop and add in that order, adding a little salt as I go. Cook the vegetables on a medium heat until they begin to melt down but don’t brown.

Stir in the garlic and chilli, cook for a couple of minutes then stir in the tomatoes. Let the tomatoes melt down then add about 800mls reserved chickpea liquor or vegetable stock or a mix of the two. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 20 minutes. It’s up to you whether you eat this a s stew or soups add more stock if needed

This is when I popped up the garden and picked some spinach and chervil. The recipe does call for coriander but our coriander is in animated suspension at the moment but we do have a healthy amount of chervil Basically use what you have!

Wash the spinach and remove any thick stems then gather it up and chop into thin ribbons. Stir this into the pot, allow everything to return to the boil then take off of the heat. Taste and add salt and ground black pepper. I use a hand held blender to give the soup a couple of buzzes – very quickly – just enough to create a little background creaminess. Chop the herbs and stir in.

Admittedly this makes a large pot but I put a picture up on the family WhatsApp and it was soon devoured!

It’s ideal to share but it would also freeze well


Winter Garden Soup

Each evening I go to the garden to give the chickens their afternoon tea. It’s pretty slim pickings for them now that the shop is closed so their tea isn’t a gourmet selection anymore but fortunately the chickens are still tuned in to the universe and their inner egg radars have turned back on. It is amazing how quickly the incremental increase of daylight brings on the eggs so to thank them I prowl around the garden looking for green things to supplement their diet.

It’s surprising what’s out there. It’s not growing very quickly – more like suspended animation but there’s always something. Yesterday evening I came down to the house with a head of fennel, some leeks and a bunch of kale – I soaked some cannellini beans and we were set up for today’s lunch.

Soaking dried beans for this recipe is optional as canned beans also do a good job. The bonus of cooking dried beans is the cooking liquid makes a great base for the stock. A Parmesan rind is a definite bonus if you have one. I didn’t this time but I did find some pumpkin that needed a home while I was searching the fridge which was great for the colour scheme.

Winter Garden Soup

1 onion

100mls olive oil

1-2 stems celery

Parmesan rind – optional

1 bulb fennel

2 leeks

a bunch of kale

250g diced pumpkin

200g dried cannellini beans or 1-2 cans

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 litre vegetable stock or stock plus bean water

salt and pepper

If you’re using dried beans soak them in cold water overnight. The next day drain them, put them in a saucepan and cover them with water. Bring to the boil then simmer gently, covered with a lid for – now this is the mystery bit as it depends how old the beans were – anything between 40 mins and 2 hours. I keep checking. When they are cooked take them off the heat. Drain them and reserve the cooking liquid for the stock

Peel and chop the onion. Heat a medium/large saucepan, add the olive oil and the onion, give it a stir then turn the heat to medium.

Cut the celery in strips lengthwise then chop into a dice. Stir in with the onions.

If you have a Parmesan rind add it now.

Wash the fennel, cut it into half then slice thinly. Add to the pot. Season with a little salt and give it a stir.

You should be able to hear the vegetables sizzling. If you can’t increase the heat.

Trim the leeks – don’t cut all the green bit off, just the scraggy bits. Rinse well under running water to remove all dirt then slice into 1cm pieces. Add to the pot and stir.

Dice the pumpkin into 1cm cubes . Strip the rosemary from the woody stem and roughly chop. Add to the pot

Wash the kale then strip from the stem and chop into thin ribbons. Season with a little more salt and stir well.

Cook until the vegetables melt down. This sweetens the vegetables and enhances the flavours. Add the vegetable stock/bean water then bring to the boil. Stir in the beans then simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper. If you have used a parmesan rind take it out and discard (chickens love them!).

I like to give the soup a quick mash to encourage creaminess but don’t overdo it.