Brimming bowls of goodness
Mussels with tomato, fennel garlic
Serves 4-6 as a starter
200ml olive oil
6 cloves garlic
3 tsp fennel seeds
1-2 fennel bulbs, very finely diced
1 onions, peeled and sliced
8 tomatoes, roughly diced
4-6 slices sourdough, toasted
Salt and pepper
1kg mussels scrubbed and prepared (see above)
150ml red wine
Heat the olive oil and four cloves of the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the fennel seeds and the fennel and onion and cook, very gently, until really soft. Meanwhile, toast the sourdough thoroughly and leave it in the toaster or on a wire rack to cool, so it doesn’t go soggy.
Then, using the last two pieces of garlic, rub them on the cool toast, almost as though you were grating the garlic clove along the crisp toast. This will create a fantastic garlic-rubbed bit of sourdough.
Chuck the end bits of garlic into the saucepan along with the fennel and onion. Cut the bread into triangles and put in the bottom of 4-6 bowls. Add the tomatoes to the saucepan and stir and season. Cook with a lid on for about five minutes to let the tomatoes break down a bit. Turn the heat up in the saucepan and then add the mussels and wine and cook for about two or three minutes, with the lid on.
Give the pan a good shake every now and then, and providing you have good heat, take a look and hopefully most of the shells will be open. Discard any that haven’t opened. Taste the tomato mix and then spoon it on top of the bread into each bowl and serve straight away, topped with lots of mussels.
Tuscan white bean and bread soup
1 loaf sourdough, cut into chunks
2 x 400g tins cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1.5 litres vegetable stock
100-150ml olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 big bunches Cavolo Nero or kale, stalks removed roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 large potato, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
Parmesan to serve
Drizzle the bread with some olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for about 20 minutes at 160 degrees/gas 3, until golden brown. Then set aside. In a food processor or blender, mix one tin of drained beans with about 200ml of the stock, on pulse mode. Not total mush, but lumpy puree is what you’re after.
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan and sweat the carrots and onion until soft. Add the Cavolo Nero and when it has tamed somewhat, add the garlic, tomatoes, potato, processed beans and remaining tin of drained beans and stock. Mix well and stir. Season and simmer for about 40 minutes, until the potato is tender. Taste, season and serve in bowls, on top of the toasted bread, and sprinkle with Parmesan and lots of black pepper and maybe a bit more olive oil.
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