Invention Test Tea

Our oven is broken.

I put it on to roast some spuds, and the power in the flat tripped out. Once the power was restored, the oven would not heat. Nada.

The hobs are fine, but for the time being anything baked is off the menu.

I would give (almost) anything for bread, pizza, or anything crusty with cheese right now.

But nothing is doing for the next three weeks. An engineer has visited, parts have been ordered, and a horrendously expensive, unexpected bill has been paid. But until parts have arrived there will be no pizza, no crusty cheese, and bread will cost us £4 a pop.

So, not only are we ovenless, we are also on a budget. Proper, like.

That’s why, on Friday, we found ourselves doing an inventory of the fridge, freezer and cupboard to try to eek out three extra meals before we next head to the shops.

We seem to have got lucky on the store front. Sausages and lardons on the freezer, celery and carrot in the fridge, butter beans in the cupboard. So tonight was Invention Test Tea #1 – soup!

I think it’s basically some class of a minestrone. Nothing fancy – just bacon and vegetable sofrito, thickened with pulses. But filling, and tasty as anything. And we’re having it again in a couple of nights!


Soup- farro, butter bean and bacon

Bacon, vegetable, farro and bean minestrone.

Serves 4.

120g diced pancetta or bacon
4 carrots, 4 sticks of celery and 2 white onions, all diced
2 tomatoes, diced
100g dried butter beans, or other white beans (soaked in cold water overnight)
100g farro or pearl barley
2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
Old parmesan rinds
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
Chopped parsley
Grated parmesan

1. Drain the soaked beans, put in a pan with bay leaves, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes, spooning off any scum that floats to the surface.

2. Gently fry the bacon in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until crispy and the fat is mostly melted out.

3. Add the celery, onion and carrot to the pan, with a sprinkling of salt, and stir to coat it in the bacon fat. Cook gently for at least 10 minutes until all the vegetables are soft and glossy.

4. Add the diced tomatoes and old parmesan rind, and a good grinding of salt and pepper, and cook for another 5 minutes.

5. Drain the beans. Add them, together with the bay leaves and the farro, to the bacon and vegetables and stir to mix.

6. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer gently for an hour until the pulses and grains are cooked and have thickened the soup. Top up with a little hot water if over-reducing.

7. Serve with a sprinkling of grated parmesan and chopped parsley. More black pepper essential.


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