Sunday, 30 October 2011

Italian Bean Soup

Farrow and Ball, paint purveyor to the tasteful, cultured and upwardly aspirational (and yes, clearly I really want some), prides itself on its paint names. Some are quirky, like "Elephant's Breath"; others show off their heritage, like "Manor House Grey"; others appeal to a very specific sense of place, like "Oxford Stone". Some sound like something out of Jamie Oliver - "Smoked Trout", yum - while others sound more appropriate for The Inbetweeners ("Clunch", anyone?).  But my favourites are those which conjure up a very British sense of weather. And today, our Sunday experience was sponsored by paint number 266, a muted greenish grey. Or, in their own words, "Mizzle".

The major downside about dogsitting is that you really can't get out of walking the bloody thing - even when it clearly doesn't want to go either, even when it's drizzling and misty and you know there are slippers and the Sunday papers waiting inside.  So you go, and you kick over the soggy leaves, and the dog looks at you with "I never asked for this, you know" eyes, and you're both thoroughly miserable for about twenty minutes. Then you come back, dry at least 10% of the mud off the dog's coat (whoops, there go the carpets!) and decide you need a huge, steaming bowl of soup for lunch. That is the story, amid the mizzle, of today's Italian bean soup.

I spotted the recipe in my best-beloved Waitrose magazine and decided to give it a go, spurred on by the twin motivations of convenience (we already had all the ingredients, for once) and healthiness. Don't mention the cheese. It was very quick and easy and I quite liked it, although my co-diner wasn't hugely enamoured. I'm not sure it was life-changing, to be honest. Hot, hearty and healthy, yes! Enough to defrost my toes? Well, not yet.

But in much more exciting news, the Dine at Mine household has Found a House (capitals entirely necessary)! No more whingeing about being homeless - with fingers crossed for estate agents, lawyers and banks all doing their thing, we have a new home! Or we will have from January next year, but let's not split hairs. This news IS life-changing and we could not be more thrilled, albeit thrilled with a scattering of nervousness and quite a big spoonful of "oh my god please let it go through please let it go through". 

That's why I'm already trawling the Farrow and Ball catalogue (mmm, number 270, Calluna), gleefully decorating everything in my head and going over and over the photos, trying to work out where all our furniture can go and exactly how long it will be until we can have a housewarming party. We have dreamed of this moment for months and with all the wood touched and fingers crossed, we have a house! We've bought a house! If you'll excuse me, there are paint charts to flick through and photos to dream over. Never mind the mizzle, it's all going to be "Borrowed Light" from now on.

Italian Bean Soup
From the Waitrose Magazine, October

- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 stick of celery, chopped
- a few sprigs of thyme
- olive oil, salt and pepper
- 1 fat clove of garlic, chopped or crushed
- one tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 600ml vegetable stock
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- a handful of kale or spinach
- some parmesan to serve

In a large saucepan, gently fry the onion, carrot, celery and thyme leaves in a bit of oil until softened - about five minutes. Then add the garlic and beans and fry for another minute or so before adding the stock and tomatoes. Add a few good grinds of pepper and simmer it for 15 minutes. Stir in the kale or spinach until it's wilted and soft, then serve with a few shavings of cheese on top and some bread on the side. Warning - they say this serves 4, but we were hungry and finished it between 2. Good thing it's all vegetable!

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