January is the month I feel the need to hibernate. Christmas and New Year are over and the decorations are packed away for next year. Some people plan a detox, diet, cleanse and clean. Others choose to join a gym, take up a new sport and make promises difficult to keep. I would quite happily dive under the duvet and not resurface for a month. What a luxury, to allow mind and body a few weeks off.
Back to reality, and if I can’t hibernate I want to offer my body some healthy nourishment during the colder months.
The light dusting of snow last week is fading, exposing the countryside once again. The logs are stacked up outside and fireplaces are lit each evening. Seasonal vegetables include pumpkins, potatoes, onions, carrots and cavolo nero, a dark green type of cabbage. The hunting season continues, sadly for us vegetarians, providing pigeon, wild boar, pheasant and guinea fowl.
Zuppa di Ceci – Chickpea soup Serves 6-8
Here we share one of our favourite winter warming recipes….
- 500g (1lb 2oz) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water
- 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 large celery stalk, trimmed and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 small red dried chilli, left whole
- 100g (3.5 oz) silver beet (swiss chard) trimmed and finely sliced
- 2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and pureed or 150g (5.5oz) tin of peeled tomatoes, pureed.
- 6 thick slices white, country bread
- Extra virgin olive oil to serve
Drain the soaked chickpeas and place in a large stockpot. Add the onion, carrot and celery. Cover with 3.5 litres (14 cups) of cold water (add the rest later if it doesn’t fit) and bring to the boil. Skim the surface to remove any scum. Lower the heat slightly and cook, uncovered, for about 1.15 hours, or until the chickpeas are tender. Season with salt and pepper in the last half hour of the cooking time. Puree two-thirds of the chickpeas with their cooking liquid, leaving the remainder whole. Return everything to the pot. Add a little hot water if too thick.
Chop one of the garlic cloves. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the chopped garlic, rosemary sprigs and the chilli. When you begin to smell the garlic, add the silverbeet. Saute on a medium heat for a couple of minutes before adding the tomato. Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking for about 5 minutes until the tomato has melted into a sauce and seems cooked. Remove the rosemary sprigs and discard. Add the tomato mix to the chickpea pot and simmer for another few minutes to blend the flavours. Check the seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper, if necessary.
Toast or grill the bread slices, rub one side with the whole garlic clove and drizzle with olive oil. Put the soup into individual bowls with a splash of olive oil and grinding of black pepper. Enjoy!
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