Rosemary's bean soup with Italian cheese chips
Today I made my thirtieth soup! Before I start writing about this soup, I'll tell you a little bit more about the contents of The Soup Book. It's divided into these sections: Techniques; Recipe Choosers; Summer Vegetables; Winter Vegetables; Pulses and Nuts; Fish and Shellfish; Poultry, Game and Meat; Fruit; Cheese; and Breads.Techniques covers making stock, preparing vegetables, herbs, spices and pulses, pureeing, thickening, enriching, rescuing, garnishing, storecupboard essentials, and making use of leftovers. The other sections contain just what their titles indicate! I have made eleven summer vegetable soups, five winter vegetable soups, five from Pulses and Nuts, three from Fish and Shellfish, four from Poultry, Game and Meat, and two from Cheese. It's obviously going to take me a while to get through The Soup Book.
I have no idea why this soup is called Rosemary's bean soup. It contains rosemary, certainly, and a quick search on the internet yielded several recipes for "rosemary (and) white bean soup." But there is no eponymous Rosemary, as far as I can tell. By the way, one of my favourite songs is "Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes" by Edison Lighthouse! The ingredients of these other soup recipes include cannellini beans, while The Soup Book's version cites flageolet beans. As it turned out, I was unable to find canned flageolet beans this morning, so ended up buying cannellini beans. I went out in search of these beans and oxtails (the latter were for a Nigel Slater recipe), but they couldn't be found in the local butchers and gourmet grocers'. I called into "Young Stephen's" place and scanned the cans (not a hit by Suzie Quattro, all you 1970s' music buffs).
"Do you have any flageolet beans?" I called out.
"Flatulence beans?" he queried.
"No," I smiled. "Flageolet. They might well give you flatulence."
He's just gone vegetarian, so I warned him to expect to experience more trapped wind. Thank you for not sharing, "Young Stephen."
Eventually I returned home (with cannellini beans but no oxtails - they have to be ordered these days) and set to making the soup for lunch. I started off by making the Italian cheese crisps. Quite simple. All they contain are grated cheese (choose from Grana Padano, pecorino or Parmesan - we had Parmesan) and finely chopped rosemary. I have a rosemary plant in the back garden. It's been something of a disappointment to me. You know all those children's stories where the runt of the litter is about to be left to starve and die, but someone takes pity on it, wraps it in a tartan blanket, lays it front of the fire and syringes milk mixed with whisky into its mouth? Well, a couple of years ago the spouse and I were buying news plants for the garden, many of our previous plants having been crushed when our garden wall was knocked down in the direction of our flower bed, rather than in the direction of our neighbour's show of bindweed and nettles. We also needed to replace a rosemary bush, our previously healthy specimen having been killed by builders when their Port-a-loo was removed. We ventured out to the garden centre in Clondalkin and filled our trolley with bits and pieces. I mentioned to the assistant that we wanted rosemary and she offered us the last one in stock - a sorry specimen, the runt, no doubt, of a splendid litter that even Gordon Ramsay would be afraid to cut sprigs from, let alone relieve himself on when his Port-a-loo was gone. I bought the plant reluctantly, but reassured myself that it would flourish. It hasn't, despite the absence of builders with bursting bladders.
I have digressed. Rosemary's bean soup contains dried porcini mushrooms, sprigs of rosemary, olive oil, onion, garlic, beans and vegetable stock. It didn't take long to cook and was quite tasty. The verdict of the testosterone-fuelled ones in my house: "Good, even though it doesn't have any meat in it" (that from the older offspring); "Good" from the spouse; and "Good" from the younger offspring (a true compliment).
Is this funny, honey?
What have I been up to this week? Funnily enough, I've started a comedy writing course. So far, so good. We did a little bit of writing and discussed what makes us laugh. A story about a mundane event can be made funny by the insertion of a remark or event that is extraordinary - or vice versa. My colleague "Susanna" was recounting how she was stung by wasps as a child, an extraordinary event. A good narrator, she went into some detail about what happened: she poked at the wasps' nest, they came flying out and stung her in various places, and she spent a few days in hospital. She became quite caught up in the story, but was interrupted just as she was saying, "And my brother Malachy ..." At this point another colleague interjected: "Hold on a minute. I didn't know you had a brother called Malachy." It made me laugh.