Through the good graces of the internet and television I have been able to quickly become intimate with kings, of all nations across the ages, and through this intimacy I can confirm that familiarity has bred contempt. Conversely, although I have seen and experienced at first hand the unpleasant side of its nature, I have nothing but admiration for the now and future cabbage. I am neither royalist nor republican but I am a human and as such I can live without kings or presidents but not without food and as there is very little in the governance of today’s world that is to be admired I am plighting my troth to the soil and the sod and the good things which it produces which in turn support our lives. Of all the topics suggested by the Walrus, when chatting to his lunch, none seemed as dull as “kings”. Shoes, ships, sealing wax, cabbages, why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings are all subjects conducive to a long chin wag with a glass of wine or two and perhaps several oysters but I’d pass on kings….unless it was a royal flush: I am fully aware of the possible fun to be had by replacing one vowel with another in the verb preceding the word “kings” and how apposite that would be when linked to the royal flush.
Today’s cabbage will be tomorrow’s soup and that soup will be rebollita, the recipe of which I was recently reminded whilst thumbing through my copy of Anna del Conté’s “The Classic Food of Northern Italy” for which I did the pictures some 20 years ago: although I see from the current paperback version on Amazon that my cover shot has been replaced with a lighter, brighter image than my original dark and moody picture that was then the zeitgeist. The basic ingredients for this soup, beans and cabbage, provide a link between Tuscany and the Vendée for me. Beans and pork were the mainstays of Vendéen peasants and the fields around the farms are full of cabbages during the winter months. Although our provincial supermarket did not offer the cavolo nero, which is the sine qua non of rebollita, it did offer a very good looking chou pomme, which, being irresistible in name and looks, I bought. I am including the whole of Anna del Conté’s recipe, which includes her careful notes about the preparation of this dish. It’s hard for me to imagine someone not making this rebollita after reading her words.,,,because I am, as you can see from the picture on the right..
You may have noticed that the recipe has come to abrupt halt which has happened because I failed to scan the final moments…impatience was my undoing. I shall write the final steps…as follows:
“Measure the bean liquid and add enough water to make it up to about 1.5l. Add to the pot and bring to the boil.Cook over the lowest heat for about 2 hours. Check seasoning and leave until the next day. The next day, mix in the whole beans. Heat the oven to 180C. Slice very finely enough onion to make a nice thin layer all over the surface of the soup. Put the pot in the oven and cook until the onion is tender: about 1 hour. Rub the bread with the garlic cloves, then roast under the grill. Put the bread into individual soup bowls and ladle the soup over it. Dribble the remaining olive oil over each bowl.”