A furry friend keeping your toes warm doesn't hurt either.
The past few weeks have been so up and down I don't really know where I am half the time but more on that another day. I've been cooking here and there but mostly not for myself, I've been in a different kitchen that has a dishwasher and oh how much more enjoyable cooking is when you can load the dishwasher and not have a giant sink full of dishes to tackle at the end. I've also learnt a snippet of my family's history that has me so curious about what my grosi and great grosi (swiss grandma) might have cooked for the ones they loved. I suppose I could ask my Uncle or cousins but I have so many questions I think I'll overwhelm them or they'll think I'm crazy! It's easy for my mind to go off on little tangents now and then. Thinking a lot family lately and what it'd be like to have everyone in the one room for a day. The thought makes me smile, we'd talk and talk and talk until the lot of us had no voices left. It would be wonderful.
Home again last week and in my own (dishwasher-less) kitchen, I craved comfort and feeling unsettled with my un-stocked pantry and fridge I assumed dinner was going to arrive in plastic boxes with wooden chopsticks. Not so comforting about that. This was until I picked up a copy of Emiko Davies new cookbook, Acquacotta that had been sent to me (thankyou thankyou thankyou). My menulog order was out on hold as I came across a recipe for a tomato based wild mushroom soup, Zuppa Di Funghi. Hmmm mushrooms - a little bit sad but yes, onion - yes, garlic - yes, canned tomatoes - yes, dried porcini - YES. DONE. The soup was so robust, comforting and full of flavour ti's going to be a regular dinner on those nights that you need something to warm you through to your toes. Emiko tells us the dried porcini mushrooms are optional but I highly recommend adding them even if it means a little online shop to get them (I get mine from here). It gives it a beautiful flavour that you can't get from other mushrooms. I used fresh button mushrooms and swiss brown mushrooms along side the dried porcini but if I had them I'd have also added other mixed mushrooms like fresh porcini and chanterelles.
To serve, you rub a piece of grilled crusty bread with a raw garlic clove, place it in the bottom of your bowl and pour over the soup. The liquid is soaked up by the punchy garlic bread turning it into a thick stew, like soup. It's filling and rich but not heavy - perfect on a chilly autumn night.
This book is more than just a beautiful cookbook. Emiko has captured the life in Costal Southern Tuscany with it's food, cooking and traditions. If reading about a different way of life and the food that surrounds it are comfort for you then this book with warm you and also make you very very hungry. It made me want to escape to Italy and book flights asap. I can't wait to really get stuck in more of the recipes like the wild boar ragu, homemade parpadelle with hare sauce, spaghetti with wedge clams, strozzapreti pasta with 'fake' sauce (yeh I like pasta) and of course the acquacotta's of the book, the dish the book is named after but I'll need to do a little research for some ingredients. Wild hare and boar I have no clue but with the fresh seafood I think I'll take my copy of the book to the fish shop next time and ask for some advice.
I hope everyone had an Easter weekend with time spent with the ones you love, eating, drinking and of course talking too much.
Zuppa Di Funghi - Wild Mushroom Souprecipe (ever so slightly adapted) from Acquacotta by Emiko Davies
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped, plus 1 extra for rubbing on toasted bread
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
20g dried porcini (optional - but highly recommended)
450g mixed mushrooms, inc fresh porcini if possible, roughly chopped
125ml white wine
400g passata (or 1x400g blitzed can of tomatoes)
chilli flakes, chopped red chilli or freshly ground black pepper
1 handful calamint (or marjoram or oregano and mint) - I used parsley
4 slices white crusty bread
In a large pot, cook the onion and garlic over low heat in olive oil for approx. 10 minutes, or until onion softens but doesn't colour.
If using dried porcini, put them in a small bowl and pour just-boiled water over the top to cover (about a cup). Let the mushroom soften in the water for about 15 minutes. Remove the mushrooms carefully (they will be hot!), straining and reserving the liquid through a fine-meshed sieve lined with a coffee strainer or a couple of sheets of paper towel. Chop the reconstituted mushrooms roughly.
Add the fresh and reconstituted mushrooms to the onion and garlic, season with a pinch of salt and then pour over the white wine. Turn the heat up to medium-high and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the tomato passata along with 125ml of water and strained mushroom water, season with another pinch of salt and chilli flakes (or cracked black pepper). Continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes at a low simmer until the mushrooms are tender and the soup reduces slightly and thickens. Remove from the heat and add the herbs.
Grill or toast the bread slices. Rub the warm toast just once (or twice if like the raw garlic punch) with a peeled, raw clove of garlic for extra flavour. Put the toast in the bottom of four bowls and pour soup over the top.