Lentil, Barley and Vegetable Soup

Soup Mix is a packet mix of barley, dried peas and various lentils that is easily available in supermarkets. It it not something I would normally buy, but my Father had a couple of bags in his pantry and I inherited them.

During a particularly cold snap, they were used to make a hearty and creamy vegetable soup. It is a soup that is warming and delicious. It also freezes very well.

The soup’s secrets are – the inclusion of fennel with leeks, onions and celery. Fennel is rarely included in soups yet it goes so well with lentils and beans. We have an extraordinary Dried Fava Soup that uses fennel in its base. The second secret is that half of the lentil-barley mix is cooked separately and blended to a puree before including in the soup. This gives the soup a beautiful creamy texture.

Healthy and utterly delicious, this soup is beautiful on a cold Wintery evening. Pair it with Parmesan Toasts if you wish, or with Polenta Crisps.

Similar recipes include Du Puy Lentil Soup, Red Lentil and Garlic Soup, and Vegetable and Barley Soup.

Browse all of our Soups and all of our Lentils Soups. Or explore our Late Winter dishes.

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Brussels Sprout Risotto with Blue Cheese

A sprout risotto? You’d better believe it. Brussels Sprout are such a controversial vegetable – you either love them or hate them. We grew up with overcooked and soggy sprouts that had the colour and natural sweetness leached out of them and left the kitchen with a cabbage-y sprouts aroma. So in our kitchen they are either eaten raw, roasted, fried, or sauteed with a little garlic.

Unusual pairings with sprouts include pomegranate seeds, pomegranate molasses or maple syrup. Salty, sweet and sour flavours are great – try lemon juice and lime juice, preserved lemon, capers, parmesan, chilli, almonds, barberries, pistachios, even tiny toasted croutons, all work very very well.

Today’s recipe uses Brussels Sprouts in a risotto. It is an unusual recipe but you will love it. It is an Ottolenghi recipe from Plenty More. It combines shredded sprouts and fried sprouts in the risotto with lemon, parmesan and the bite of Blue Cheese. How exciting! It is lemony, herby, cheesy, and of course, with the flavour of delicious sprouts.

In fact, it is Ottolenghi day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi books – currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often slightly massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry.

Similar recipes include Brussels Sprouts Salad, Gentle Vegetables cooked in Wine, Three Cheese Risotto, and Asparagus Risotto.

Browse all of our Risotto recipes and Brussels Sprouts recipes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Early Autumn dishes.

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Insalata di Radicchio e Rughetta | Salad of Rocket and Radicchio with Parmesan

It is time to increase the presence of wonderful greens in our kitchen and we begin with a quick salad of Rocket (Arugala) and Radicchio. These are tossed with parmesan and a vinaigrette and topped with toasted nuts. There, you have the recipe already. We are so lucky that our Italian brothers and sisters believe in simple dishes and have a wealth of vegetarian dishes packed full of flavour.

It is a wonderful way to begin a meal. I recommend serving it before your main course, and wait for the oohs and aahs from your eating companions. It is the parmesan that makes all the difference in this salad. Oh, and my special trick with the dressing.

Similar recipes include White Fig and Rocket Salad, Rocket Salad with Penne and Parmesan, and Grilled Radicchio with Shallots and Dill.

Browse all of our Rocket dishes and our Radicchio recipes. All of our wonderful Salads are here and Italian dishes here. Or browse our Early Winter collection of dishes.

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Baked Ziti with Feta

I had recently made Jamie Oliver’s Baked Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzarella, when I came across this similar recipe by Ottolenghi. The concept is the same – cheesey pasta in tomato sauce, baked until melty – the execution is different, with different pastas, different spices, cheeses and cooking methods. They are both great left-over-pasta-and-tomato-sauce dishes – layer with cheese and bake or grill – and hence they would make fabulous Sunday night supper meals.

I think Jamie’s recipe is a winner – easy to make and packed with flavour, and it has an honesty about its simplicity which shines through in the finished dish. Ottolenghi’s version layers the flavours with herbs and spices and uses the bite of feta and the umami of aged cheese and parmesan to add depth to the dish. It is different to Jamie’s in that the pasta is the focus and it is baked until the top layer is crispy and the cheese is golden brown. Delicious. Jamie’s recipe is pasta bathed in tomato sauce, Ottolenghi’s is pasta with a little tomato sauce.

I always preferred my father’s pasta the next day, when he’d put it in a hot oven with heaps of extra cheese. It would emerge slightly burned and very crisp on top.

This recipe serves a heap of people, up to 10, depending on how hungry the mob is. So don’t be afraid to halve it for a smaller family meal. Just note that the baking dish must be big enough to hold the pasta in a shallow layer. Or bake in separate dishes as I did.

I also have to mention that Ottolenghi grills this dish but I baked it. Partly because that is easier in our kitchen, but mostly because the recipe asks that the tomato sauce sits aside while the pasta is cooked, so it has lost heat. Baking heats the dish again beautifully.

As already mentioned, this is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area.

In fact, it is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.

Similar dishes include Baked Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzarella, Pasta Bake with Cabbage and Cheese, and Pasta Sauce with Aubergine, Red Peppers and Tomatoes.

Browse all of our Pasta dishes, our Baked dishes and our Italian recipes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Early Winter recipes.

We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.

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Jamie’s Pasta al Forno con Pomodori e Mozzarella | Baked Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

During a delightful week at my daughter’s place, running wild with the two kids, we had an informal Sunday lunch with friends and made this baked pasta dish from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italy. Jamie describes it as a wonderful dish which is simple to make, and he is right on both points.

He first fell in love with this dish in Italy, then tried to reproduce it in his school’s program for 37p per serve. He tells how he fell out of love with it because he had to use cheap pasta and cheap cheese. Back in Italy, he realised that the Italian government mandates organic pasta for schools, the mozzarella was always local and fresh and the tomatoes the best available. It makes all the difference! He says that this was the recipe that was made for 1,000 kids at the Italian school he visited.

The dish is very common in Italy, and can be eaten hot, warm and room temperature. Use the best ingredients that you can, and make two – you won’t regret it.

Similar recipes include Baked Ziti with Feta, Orecchiette with Broad Beans, Pasta Bake with Cabbage and Cheese, and Pasta Sauce with Aubergine, Red Peppers and Tomatoes.

Browse all of our Pasta dishes, our Baked dishes and our Italian recipes. Or explore our Mid Summer dishes.

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The Little Italy Salad | Tomatoes with Mozzarella

Where would we be without tomatoes? Here is yet another version of a Tomato Salad, one that pairs them with Mozzarella. Fresh or traditional mozzarella can be used – both are great. Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella and Boccancini balls go so well with tomatoes, but so does the traditional, drier Mozzarella. Normally associated with pizza, it is also nice eaten sliced or cubed as part of an antipasto plate or in a salad. That’s the one we use today, but you can choose either.

Are you after other Mozzarella Salads? Try Marinated Buffalo Mozzarella and Tomato, Grilled Fennel with Fresh Mozzarella, Marinated Zucchini Salad with Bocconcini, and Mozzarella and Eggplant Torte.

Or other Tomato Salads? Try Fennel, Potato and Tomato Salad with Garlicky Mayonnaise, Red Pepper and Tomato Salad with Crispy Flatbread, Chilli and Lime, and Cherry Tomatoes with a Soy Dressing.

Browse all of our Tomato Salads, our Mozzarella Salads, or indeed all of our many many Salads. Or take some time to explore our Early Autumn dishes.

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Fava Bean Puree | Dried Broad Bean Puree

When your broad beans pass their peak and become older, white in colour and rather tough, the best thing is to cook the diggins out of them. Indeed, this also applies to dried broad beans – or Fava Beans as they are most likely called in your local Italian deli or Provodore.

The great thing about dried fava beans is that they bring the beautiful broad bean into your kitchen even in the depths of winter.

Today, broad beans are cooked almost a la Grecque style, with water and olive oil, for a couple of hours for dried beans and a little less for fresh beans. They are then pureed with herbs to make a great spread, dip or accompaniment to your main dish. It makes a great Greek style salad topped with red onions.

Are you looking for other Fava Bean recipes? Try Koukofava, Dried Fava Bean Soup with Turmeric and Herbs and Fava Bean Puree with Dill and Olive Oil.

You might like to browse our other Broad Bean recipes, and other dried Broad Bean dishes. There are other Broad Bean Dips and Spreads. Our Italian recipes are here.  Or simply explore, at your leisure, our Early Winter dishes.

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Spaghetti con Pomodori Freshchi | Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes

It’s Friday night, Pasta night, and we are all home late and tired from a long week. There is no time for a cooked sauce, we are starving. So we turn to one of our simple but delicious pasta dishes, a salad and some crusty bread.

This recipe is simple, just tomatoes, cheese and basil, so very Italian in its composition. It takes no longer than it takes to cook the pasta. Enjoy!

Why not make your own Pasta? How to Make Eggless Pasta.

Are you looking for Pasta recipes? Try Pasta with Zucchini and Parsley Pesto, Pasta with a Cauliflower Sauce, and Pasta with Chilli and Olive Oil.

You can browse all of our Pasta dishes and all of our Italian recipes. Or simply browse our Mid Autumn dishes.

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Farinata, Socca, Pudla, Cheela – Making Chickpea Flour Pancakes

Many parts of the world have pancakes, fritters, or thicker, baked “pan” cakes that are made from chickpea flour and water. In these variations, an infinite array of flavourings are added to the base – spices and herbs; thinly sliced vegetables such as onion, tomatoes, and zucchini, beans sprouts; coriander leaves to give a fresh crisp punch; basil or parsley oil is a terrific addition.

The various versions of the chickpea pancake – farinata in Italy, socca in France, pudla or cheela in India – are often found in the streets of cities and at roadside stalls in the rural areas. They are served on parchment paper or piece of banana leaf, and devoured hot on the spot.

The batter can be made several days before using, so plan ahead and use spare moments to mix the batter, ready for a quick snack or a mezze dish.  Mix up a double amount, and make pancakes one day, and baked chickpea pizza a day or two later. Divine.

See below for a range of pancake recipes made from chickpea flour batter. Or browse all of our Farinata and Pudla. Alternatively, explore our other Late Autumn dishes.

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Caponata Siciliana | Eggplant, Olive, and Celery Appetizer

This is a beautiful dish with Roman origins, from Sicily. There is something  beautifully different about some of the taste combinations you’ll find in Sicily, especially the tendency to combine sweet and sour – a legacy, they say, of ancient Roman days when sweet dates were used instead of tomatoes and sugar.

La caponata, one of the most famous Sicilian dishes, is a good example. It’s a cousin to the ratatouille of Provence. Caponata features eggplant, with celery, tomato and onions along with capers and olives. These are typical Southern Italian flavours. And it has that sweet-and-sour touch that perfectly balances out the flavours. It layers different flavours one upon the other, and, if you care to cook it for 30 mins or more, the flavours are deep and glorious and the consistency almost jam-like.

Serve Caponata on its own, hot or room temperature, on a Sunday afternoon (with a glass of wine, of course), or in the traditional manner as an antipasto. Caponata can be served on bruschetta, with flatbread or with salad leaves, and it’s also perfect as a side dish or even as a relish.

Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray note warily in the River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook that “there are as many ways to make caponata as there are cooks in Sicily”, a fact confirmed by Giorgio Locatelli, who claims that “in every house and in every restaurant you will find a different version and opinion.”

There are many versions of Caponata on Sicily – apparently 37 official versions, depending on local customs. The differences lie in the addition of different vegetables, for example potatoes, bell peppers, zucchini.

Are you looking for other Eggplant dishes? Try Babaganoush, Grilled Eggplant Salad, Baingan ka Bharta and Eggplant Fry.

We have other Celery recipes too. Try Celery Yoghurt Salad, Spicy Celery Salad, and Chickpea, Celery and Carrot Salad with a Curry Dressing.

Or perhaps some other Italian dishes. Try Farinata, Marinated Zucchini Salad, Wet Polenta and Tomato Layers, and Grilled Sweet Peppers and Eggplants.

Or you can browse all of our Eggplant recipes, all of our Celery recipes, or all of our Italian recipes. Alternatively, take some time to explore our Mid Autumn dishes.

This is a recipe from our first blog which ran from 1995 – 2006. You can browse all of the vegetarian recipes from that blog in our Retro Recipes series.

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