The first week of winter has kicked off with a bang. We’ve had winter minestrone, pear and walnut cake, snow and tops of five or six degrees for the past few days. And for the most part, it’s been lovely.
We are toasty warm in our newly renovated living space and after a crazy busy few months of travel for me, it’s just heaven to be at home, catching up on work and pottering around in the kitchen and garden.
What’s also been a bonus, was the receipt last week of a big bottle of fresh, green olive oil from Mum and Dad’s Kimbri Olive grove. For the past couple of weeks, they have been picking non stop and ferrying olives to the press in Rylstone. And while most of their oil will be set aside to settle for a little while, right now, Mum and Dad have a limited amount of ‘olio nuovo’; fresh, grassy green olive oil literally fresh off the press, (500ml bottles; $32/ 250ml bottles; $17), please email Mum/Annie Herron for more info and to purchase.
So, to make the most of having such fresh olive oil in the house, today I made a kale and borlotti bean soup that uses said oil in the recipe but also benefits greatly from being finished off with a good drizzle of it right at the end. Recipe below. It’s a goodie. If I don’t say so…
And also, because a friend was popping over for morning tea, I made this warm, spiced pear, walnut and nutmeg cake too. Together, the soup for lunch and the cake for dessert (preferably warm and served with honey yogurt) would make a really gorgeous winter lunch for friends. By the fire this long weekend or outside in the soft June sunshine.
Kale and borlotti bean soup with olio nuovo
This soup is ‘peasant’ food in the best possible way; simple, seasonal ingredients cooked slowly, each step of the process coaxing more flavour out of each ingredient. And, most importantly, finished with a good drizzle of punchy green fresh Kimbri olive oil. And of course, this will still be delicious made with good extra virgin olive oil! Serves 6.
1/4 cup olive oil (for this recipe I used green olio nuovo)
1 large brown onion, peeled and diced
2 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 tbsp rosemary leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp thyme leaves
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into cubes
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
400g piece of speck (or pancetta), skin and fat trimmed and cut into 2cm lardons
1 piece Parmesan or pecorino cheese
1 litre chicken (or vegetable stock)
1 good bunch kale
Pour most of the olive oil into a large, heavy based saucepan on medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and aromatic.
Add the herbs and speck, increase heat a little and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring often. You want everything to really take on a lovely almost caramelised look and texture. Add remaining vegetables, cut the end of your piece of Parmesan and add this to the pot too. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring so everything is really well mixed together. We are building layers of flavour here and the ‘almost caramelised’ vegetables, and the speck sticking to the bottom of the pan a bit before being scooped up and stirred around with everything else is a big part of that. And the Parmesan rind plays her role beautifully too!
Pour in the stock, top up with a cup of water and cook at a gentle simmer for about 45 minutes. Right before serving, shred the kale into the soup (leaving out the stems – which our chooks love!). Divide between bowls, top with lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and drizzle with remaining olive oil. I like to finish mine with lots of freshly ground black pepper and chilli flakes.
Pear, walnut and nutmeg cake
This is a really gorgeous cake, spiced, nutty and excellent for either morning tea or served warm with ice cream as a pudding. The idea for this recipe came from this one, and has been adapted somewhat since. Serves 8.
4 pears (not too ripe)
20g butter, cut into small pieces
50g brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground (if you can, or pre-ground) nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
150g wholemeal plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
250g butter, softened (unsalted)
250g dark brown sugar
Zest of one orange
1/2 cup buttermilk or yogurt
Sweet dukkah (recipe in A Basket by the Door!)
Preheat oven to 160C and grease and line a 24cm (or thereabouts) baking tin.
Combine the walnuts and almonds in a baking tray and toast for about 10 minutes or until fragrant. Let cool for a few minutes then transfer to a food processor and blitz until you have a coarse (or fine, if you prefer a finer cake) meal. Place in a bowl, add the nutmeg, cinnamon, flour and baking powder, whisk to combine and set aside.
Peel and halve the pears, then, using either a melon corer or a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds and core part. Fill each cavity with a little butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar across the base of the cake tin then place the pear halves, cut-side down, on top.
Cream the butter, sugar and orange zest together in a stand mixer with paddle attachment, until the sugar has just dissolved. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides and beating well between each addition.
Fold in half of the dry mixture and half of the buttermilk or yogurt, mix on slow speed and then repeat with remaining ingredients. Gently spoon batter into your prepared tin, being careful not to move the pears. Smooth over the top and place in the oven for 30 minutes, spin cake tin around and cook for another 20 minutes or until the cake is beginning to pull away from the tin’s sides and the middle feels springy to touch.
Let cool in the tin for 20 minutes before gently turning out to a serving plate and sprinkling with sweet dukkah (totally optional). Beautiful served warm with some honeyed yogurt or cream or just on its own.
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