From Nigella to Nigel – Ribsticking ‘Ribollita’…

31 01 2012

Nigel Slater (1958- ) – Culinary Quotes:

‘It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you….Once the warm, salty butter has hit your tongue, you are smitten. Putty in their hands.’(taken from ‘Toast: The Story of A Boy’s Hunger’)

‘Food is, for me, for everybody, a very sexual thing and I think I realised that quite early on. I still cannot exaggerate how just putting a meal in front of somebody is really more of a buzz for me than anything. And I mean anything.’

‘Almost anything is edible with a dab of French mustard on it.’ 

‘I have never eaten a boiled egg, but I have had a soldier or two.’

Last week Valeria made four of the hugest (and tastiest) pizzas I’ve ever seen. They were rectangular in shape, two red and two white (without tomato), all vegetarian, and with the magic ingredient of potato added to the pizza dough – Napoli style (apparently).

Tomorrow Valeria has proposed gnocchi with a blue cheese and walnut sauce! I’m salivating already, but for now it’s my turn in the kitchen again…

‘Nigella Express’ is my cookery bible, but today I’m undergoing a sex change and turning from Nigella to Nigel!

Nigel Slater, that is, the ‘Wulver’ampton’ born food writer, journalist and broadcaster. He has moved up in the World now, living with his cats in a Grade II listed Highbury property, where he tends his kitchen garden. For over a decade he has written a column for ‘the Observer Magazine’. He is also the principal writer for ‘the Observer Food Monthly Supplement’, having previously had a five-year stint with ‘Marie Claire’.

But Nigel’s culinary career had humble beginnings, here in ‘the Shire’, where he gained an Ordinary National Diploma in catering from Worcester Tech – way back in 1976. (Michael Gove – please note. This is a valid vocational qualification)

Already well-known through his Channel 4 series, ‘Nigel Slater’s Real Food Show’, with the help of Richard and Judy’s Book Club, his 2004 award-winning autobiography, ‘Toast: The Story of A Boy’s Hunger’, introduced him to a wider audience.

Slater, himself, described it as, ‘…the most intimate memoir that any food person has ever written.’  A revealing interview with Jean Moir (follow the link) throws further light on Nigel’s miserable early life. His autobiography has been adapted for TV, a BBC film starring Ken Stott and Helena Bonham Carter as Nigel’s father and step-mother, ‘the people I most disliked in my life.’       

Most recently Nigel has appeared in an eight part BBC series, ‘Simple Food’ (September 2011), and his memoir, ‘Tender (Volume 1) – A cook and his vegetable patch,’ with over 400 recipes, is now available in paperback.         

Nigel Slater is best known for uncomplicated, comfort food. Although we don’t have any of his books on the ‘Orchard House’ kitchen shelf we do take ‘the Observer’, and sadly, I know, I cut out some of his recipes that I think I might have a go at, one day!  

Well that day has arrived for ‘Nigel’s Classic Ribollita’.      

Ribolitta, a rib sticking, rustic, peasant dish from the Tuscany region of Italy, literally means ‘reboiled’. It was originally made by reheating minestrone from the previous day and adding left over bread, with cannellini beans and whatever other inexpensive vegetables were to hand. Traditionally, it includes spinach or Tuscan Kale.    

If you would like to try my take on ‘Nigel’s Classic Ribollita’ you will need:

  •          1 x peeled onion
  •          1 x leek
  •          2 x carrots
  •          3 x sticks of celery
  •          1 x courgette
    •  All the above roughly chopped into quite small pieces.
  •          400g can of chopped tomatoes
  •          250g can of cannellini beans in water
  •          leftover sweetcorn (from yesterday!)
  •          4 x thick slices of bread – torn into chunks
  •          4 x handfuls of spinach
  •          3 x cloves of garlic – finely chopped
  •          2 x small red chillies – de-seeded & finely chopped
  •          Olive oil   

What to do…

  •          Cook the onion, leek, carrots, celery, courgette, garlic & chilli in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 20 minutes, or until soft.
  •          Stir in the tomatoes, cannellini beans (plus the water) and leave to simmer over a low to moderate heat for 30 minutes.
  •          Tear up the bread and dunk it into the soup, add the spinach (or alternative greens), stir in, season, and simmer for a further 15-20 minutes.

It can be served immediately, with a trickle of good virgin olive oil but ideally should be prepared the day before and allowed to cool, leaving it in the fridge overnight. This is what I did. Apparently, it intensifies the flavours.

Reheat, or double boil as the title suggests, the next day.

As well as drizzling olive oil over the Ribollita, I couldn’t resist, topping mine off with a few shavings of ‘Parmigiano – Reggiano’, and serving with hunks of warm ciabatta – to dunk in it!         

 Valeria’s verdict, ‘Very good…but I’ve never had Ribollita with sweetcorn.’ It didn’t prevent her taking seconds!






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