Tuscan Bean and Pasta Soup + Olive and Herb Focaccia.

In the last few days I’ve been getting a few seedlings going.  Tomatoes, chillies and sweet peppers.  A gardener always lives in hope.  Spring here in the UK is being erratic, and we are waiting for Storm Katie as I write.

Making this soup has made me remember how delicious home-grown tomatoes are.  I can’t wait.

The bread is easy, and adaptable, instead of olives you can add sun-dried tomatoes, sliced artichoke hearts or diced spring onions….

olive focaccia and tuscan bean soup

TUSCAN BEAN AND PASTA SOUP + OLIVE AND HERB FOCACCIA

Serves 4   

Olive and Herb Focaccia:   

Ingredients:

  • 400gms. plain / all-purpose flour
  • 70gms. maize meal / cornmeal
  • 1.5 tsps. salt
  • 9 gms. quick-acting yeast
  • 250 ml. warm water
  • 1 tsp. muscovado sugar
  • 12 gms. herbs (I used parsley and basil)
  • 120gms. mixed black/green pitted olives
  • 1-2 tsps. coarse ground black pepper

Method:

  • Place the yeast in a bowl, and add the sugar.
  • Then add 250ml. warm water.
  • Leave to stand 10 mins. until the yeast is foamy.
  • In a large bowl, place the flour, the maize meal and 1 tsp. salt.
  • When the yeast is activated slowly add to the dry ingredients.
  • Bring the dough together, adding a handful of extra flour if necessary.
  • Knead the dough for 8 mins. or so.
  • The dough will be fairly sticky.
  • Lightly oil the bowl and place the dough in the bowl.
  • Cover, and leave in a warm place for about an hour, until it has doubled in size.
  • When the dough is ready, lightly oil a baking tin or ceramic dish, approx. 36cms. x 24cms.(not smaller or the bread will be too dense….)

 

  • Stretch the dough and lay half in the dish (see photo)
  • Slice 60gms. of olives in half and scatter the olives across the dough.
  • Scatter half the chopped herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper over the dough.
  • Fold the rest of the dough over the olives.
  • Cover, and prove in a warm place for 20 mins. or so.
  • Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mk. 9 / 240C.
  • Then plunge the rest of the olives ( leaving them whole), gently into the top layer of dough.
  • Scatter with the remaining herbs, a pinch of salt and pepper, and then drizzle with oil.
  • Bake the Focaccia in a hot oven for about 30 mins. until risen and golden.  If it goes too dark, cover loosely with foil for part of the time, but remove foil for the last 10 mins.

Leave to cool for 10 mins. before serving.

 

Eat warm or cold, with a juicy tomato and rocket salad, or try it with Tuscan Bean and Pasta Soup….recipe below.

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Bean Soup:

Ingredients:

  • 1200ml passata ( homemade or shop-bought)
  • … extra water if necessary – up to 2ooml…
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1-2 fresh red chillies
  • 225gms. pre-cooked beans ( such as cannelloni  or borlotti)
  • 120gms. penne pasta ( I used gluten-free)
  • 10gms. fresh basil / or 2 tbs. dried basil
  • 10 gms. fresh parsley / or 2 tbs. dried parsley
  • 5 gms. fresh rosemary / 1 tbs. dried rosemary
  • 1 – 3 tsps. chilli flakes
  • 2 tsps. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 3 tbs. tomato puree
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 -2 tsps. vinegar.
  • 1 tsp. muscovado sugar.

Method:

  • Peel and finely chop onion.
  • Peel and crush garlic cloves.
  • Wash, remove seeds and finely chop red chillies.
  • Finely chop fresh herbs if using.
  • In a deep-sided pan, on a high heat, add 2 tbs. olive oil.
  • When hot, add chopped onion and sauté 3 mins.
  • Add crushed garlic: saute 1 min.
  • Add chilli flakes, ground black pepper and salt : saute  30secs.
  • Add passata.
  • Add tomato puree and stir until combined.
  • Bring to a gentle simmer.
  • Add pre-cooked beans.
  • Cover and simmer gently for 30mins. or so.
  • Add herbs.
  • Transfer half the soup to a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Return blended soup to pan and stir.
  • Add 120gms. pasta.
  • Cover and simmer 20 mins until pasta is cooked.
  • Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  • 10 mins. before serving, add 1 tsp. or so of vinegar and 1 tsp. or so of muscovado sugar.
  • Stir in and taste.
  • Make any further flavour adjustments as desired.
  • Also, if the soup is too thick for your liking add a little more water.  Up to 200ml.
  • Simmer for 10 mins and serve hot.

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Enjoy

Peace

La Pace

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