January is historically our second wettest month of the year. As a point of comparison in January 2013 we received 170mm of rain and in January 2014 we are grateful for the measly 21mm we received. Couple low rainfall with days of temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s, and it is sub-ideal for growing food. Yet, with splashings of bore water in the cool of the early morning and evening, we have coaxed a crop of tomatoes. Not our best, but better than expected.
I enjoy the opportunity to cook with tomatoes picked several metres from our kitchen door. We usually preserve and freeze tomatoes to use throughout the year, but it is the fresh tomatoes I enjoy the most. Breakfast of toast topped with pesto made with basil from the garden, and chopped tomato is a simple pleasure.
With an abundance of tomatoes and potatoes in the garden, and the last of the dried borlotti beans in the kitchen cupboard, I have Italian Country Soup in mind. This recipe is adapted from Brigitte Hafner’s Italian Country Soup recipe published in a newspaper magazine supplement years ago (sorry no publication or date on the torn out page).
Italian Country Soup
Ingredients: 1 bunch of spring onions (you can use 2 leeks or an onion, washed and sliced), five chorizo (Brigitte used 100g pancetta), 2 garlic cloves, sliced, 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 large potato, diced, sprinkle of dried oregano or 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley, basil and marjoram), 1/2-1 cup of dried borlotti beans soaked for about eight hours, splash of white wine, 450g can of Italian tomatoes or up to 800g fresh Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped, 3 cups water or chicken stock, salt and pepper, 1 sprig rosemary, small handful of risoni, broken fettuccine, or crusty bread.
In a heavy-based pot, cook onion and garlic over low heat until soft and golden. Increase to medium heat and add chorizo, turning and browning for several minutes until firm enough to slice. Slice sausage into bite-sized pieces and return to the pot. Add potato and cook for a couple of minutes. Add herbs and drained beans, tomatoes, wine and water or stock. Season with salt and pepper and add rosemary. Bring to the boil, skim surface and simmer for 40-50 minutes or until beans are soft. If using risoni, add and cook for a further 10 minutes, adding water if necessary, or serve with sliced crusty loaf of bread. Serve with grated parmesan cheese. Serves 4-6.