Whenever I travel, it’s inevitable that I bring back random ingredients to play with when I get home. My cupboards are rammed with randomness, so much so that I nearly knocked myself out when something came hurtling at my head on opening the cupboard door earlier. I appreciate that even the idea of this creates stress for a lot of people, but I love my Aladdins Cave cupboard full of random delights.
Last week in Croatia I picked up lots of curious things including three brands of paprika (I want to see what they’re like starting with some goulash experiments soon), a big bag of dried corn kernels that I bought from an old lady at Pula market, and lots of fresh borlotti beans from another old lady who grew them in her garden.
Fresh beans? Why? They’re not easy to come by in the UK and I love them. When I do find them they’re quite expensive. Fresh borlotti beans are succulent and firm, with lovely flavour. They require no soaking, and in relative terms cook quickly. Housed in a bright pink pod they are speckled and cheerful. It’s such a shame that they lose their pink blush as they cook. They are wonderful in the traditional Italian pasta e fagioli, and perfect for any little soup that you might throw together.
When last in Italy I bought lots of random charcuterie, including some guanciale. Guanciale is cured pig cheek and has the most delicious flavour, probably as it is mainly fat! It’s the preferred cut for carbonara, but I also love it in a minestrone soup.
So, this soup was born. A bright, cheerful winter soup with beans, veg, guanciale and broken pasta. Rather than get specific soup noodles I just broke some spaghetti into small chunks and that worked really well.
Now, you might be thinking ‘is she mad? I can’t make that! I can’t get dried corn or fresh beans, and what is this guanciale she is banging on about?’. Don’t worry, you can substitute and I will tell you with what. Or, give it a go, and stick whatever you have in your veg box in. Use your favourite beans and pasta shape and go with it. It’s just a soup after all.
And by the way – the dried corn was really worth the effort, it’s delicious!