Thursday, 28 April 2011

Bread and cabbage soup

It's really hard when you have a baby and none of your friends do, to not be a massive arsehole about it. I mean doing that thing where when they say something like "I was in the shower the other day..." and you respond with "A SHOWER!!!!! I haven't washed since 1978!!! You can't when you've got a BABY YOU KNOW. WHEN YOU HAVE A BABY YOU'LL UNDERSTAND!!!!"

Or similar responses to tales of mini-breaks, lie-ins or trips to the cinema.

I'm mostly pretty sanguine about stuff like that. Whatevs. I chose to have a baby. And I'm pleased about it - mostly because I'm bored with mini-breaks and trips to the cinema. And Kitty sleeps now so I get to have my lie-in. I mean, until 7am.

But the other day someone suggested that they might come round for lunch. Not that they might bring round lunch for us all, but they might come round for lunch. That I would make for them to sit down and eat.

Lunch. Now lunch is something I haven't cooked and eaten in my own home for a long, long time. I've got other shit to do. Even on the weekend. And that's fine - I've always thought lunch was boring as hell. Now I eat cheese sandwiches at 12.45pm and very happy I am with it, too. But the suggestion that I am going to cook, on a weekend, lunch for other people? Are you. Fucking. Out. Of. Your. Mind?

I did not say this. I kept it to myself. They don't understand - and that's okay. One day they will understand and by then Kitty will be about 10 and making ME fucking lunch and mixing me gins and tonic and I'll laugh until I'm sick.

But, as I said, Kitty sleeps now and goes to bed at 7pm sharp. So dinner - now dinner is a thing that we're getting back on track. (I mean, not for other people - one step at a time, pal.) And the other night, in my ongoing obsession with cabbage, (I do not understand it, but it is a fact), I made Jamie Oliver's Italian cabbage soup and it was out of this world. Really, really amazing - I can't recommend it highly enough.

I did this for 2, so the quantities are quite small, but don't fret too much about exact amounts if you are doing this for more people, because it's only a soup for god's sake

Jamie's Italian cabbage soup, for 2

6 savoy cabbage leaves - not the horrid leathery outer ones, stalks removed and roughly chopped
2 handfuls of curley kale or cavolo nero
5 or 6 slices of 1in-thick sourdough - or you could use ciabatta. Is that sourdough? I'm never sure
1 large clove garlic
4 rashers bacon or pancetta, chopped
4 anchovies - please, picky eaters, do not leave these out. It won't taste like fish I PROMISE, it'll just taste savoury
2 pints chicken stock - you really need actual chicken stock here
2 handfuls parmesan
2 handfuls pecorino - Jamie's recipe specified fontina but Waitrose didn't have it so I used pecorino and it was very nice
1 stalk rosemary, leaves picked
3 sage leaves
some olive oil
salt and pepper

1 Bring the chicken stock to a simmer and cook the greens until soft - about 3 mins. Then remove to a bowl, leaving the chicken stock in the pan.

2 In a casserole dish heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and then fry the bacon and anchovies until the bacon is coloured, then add the rosemary leaves and the sage and cook for another 2 minutes

3 Then put back in the greens, toss them about and then put back in the bowl

4 Lightly toast your sourdough and then rub one side of each with the cut face of the garlic

5 To assemble your soup, put 1 or 2 slices of bread on the base of the casserole pan, then some cabbage, salt and pepper, some of each cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Then repeat until all your bread, cabbage and cheese is gone - finishing off with bread sprinkled over with cheese.

6 To finish pour your stock in and shove in a 180C oven for 30 mins. I did 15 mins with lid on and then 15 mins with lid off because I didn't want the top to burn and it worked out really well.

Just don't expect me to make it for you for lunch.


  1. Baby's sleeping through, you're back cooking & writing, and a day off work tomorrow. Hallelujah! Our friends (all child-free) are always proposing drinks&dinner, making generous concessions, 'just bring the baby along, we don't mind'. I say nothing, too, and politely decline instead - one day. So good to read u again.

  2. I wish I liked cabbages. Although maybe if I will if I try this? Or is it a post-baby thing.
    I don't have a baby yet. Although I would like Prince Harry's. xxx

  3. LOL - I am glad that you are back, before your birthday too. This was a fabulous post and I would love to try Jamie's soup after this description.

  4. other use for savoy cabbs.. soothing the boobs of nursing mothers - honestly!! refridgerate your savoy first but don't do what friend did.
    i.e send father-in-law to shops for cabbage instead he returned with brussel sprouts..

  5. I thought you hated soup?

    Anyway, so happy to have you back. I confess I get pathetically excited every time I'm informed you've posted something new.

  6. Yes good spot, I do hate soup, but this is more of a wet stew. .which makes it sound revolting, so let's dispense with semantics and just call it soup. xxx

  7. Happy Birthday to you!


  8. real chicken stock? really? can't i just use a knorr cube? i mean i have 3 children, i don't have time to make real chicken stock just like you don't have time to make lunch. but they did all love the Welsh cabbage and sausage thingy, so i may well have a go at this sometime.

  9. You probably don't have time to make stock in the proper way, like with carrots and a fucking bouquet garni and all that shite. But what about this way?

    After your next roast chicken supper instead of composting/chucking the carcass, put it in a large pot with 1 litre of cold water and put in on the hob to simmer for 2 hours. Then strain the stock and freeze/put in fridge and chuck out carcass as normal.

    Although I appreciate that you might not even have the time to do that, in which case I will Fed Ex you some stock.

    OR you can buy good chicken stock in tubs from Waitrose.

    Your children will love this - very robust, obvious flavours and they love the saltiness. Plus a piece of piss for you to make, which is the main thing.

  10. I've never commented on your excellent blog before as generally I assume that I have nothing much of interest to say but my husband is sitting next to me, replete with soup, having polished off at least 2/3 of the thing, insisting that I say IT WAS BRILLIANT. THANK YOU. I too have a love of cabbage (probably inherited from my Hungarian roots - they can do things with cabbage that most people can only dream about)

  11. Well, neccessity is the mother of invention. I'm so glad you liked it. I really can't claim credit, as it's Jamie Oliver's recipe, but I'm pleased to have brought it to your attention.

  12. I made this for my dinner the other night, mostly because it sounded delicious but also because cabbage soup made me think of what Charlie's family in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory eat for dinner because they are so poor. I realise this yummy Jamie Oliver recipe isn't really poor person food, but I thought about Charlie and his family as I ate it. Then I took leftovers into work the next day and 1. Made the office smell of cabbage and bacon and 2. Annoyed my colleagues talking about Charlie.

    Thanks, Elaine xx

  13. This is a little bit behind but i got on a "if you like this, you'll like this" tip. Re: wet stew....I made a gorgeous Nigel Slater cabbagey soup the other day and my husband referred to it as a "loose stew"....bleugh! Ways to put people off your food....