Hospitality is not one of my gifts. For various reasons related to my childhood and personality, I am not comfortable “entertaining” people in our home. But I am good at encouraging people, and I have been challenged to get out of my comfort zone with regard to extending hospitality to friends and to-be friends.
But – I can cook. I love cooking for my family and I do regard it as one of my gifts. If I could, I would bless John and Maggy Dobbs with some soup and my rich brownie flat cake.
I got this recipe from epicurious, one of my favourite recipe sources. It’s an intense flavoured soup (don’t leave out the anchovies and rosemary – they make the soup), but with a freshness and lightness that belies the fact this is a complete meal in a bowl. It conjures memories of a dinner in Monteriggioni on a cold night in ’93 (even though I have no memory of what we ate that night).
Bean and Swiss Chard (silverbeet) Soup
from: Soup: A Way of Life | November 1998
Clearly this is an Italian soup. Biete is Swiss chard, usually green, although I have a fondness for the drama and beefy taste of the red-stemmed kind.
Servings: Makes about 5 cups (1.25 litres); 4 first-course servings.
1/2 pound (225 g) Swiss chard (silverbeet) or kale, trimmed ( I remove the thick white stalks)
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus additional to taste
2 flat anchovy fillets
1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves or dried
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil (I use much less)
2 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled (I mince them finely)
1 cup (225 g) cooked small white beans or drained and rinsed canned beans (chick peas are good too!)
4 cups (1 liter) chicken stock [or Garlic Broth for a meatless soup]
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup (60 g) small shell macaroni (I use Orgran rice and corn fusilli)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
In a medium saucepan, cook the chard with 1/2 cup (125 ml) water and the salt over medium heat until tender. Drain the chard, reserving any liquid that remains. Coarsely chop the chard. (I don’t bother cooking the chard – I just add it raw)
Very finely chop anchovies together with the rosemary.
In a medium saucepan, stir together the oil and garlic over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is pale gold. Stir in the anchovies and rosemary. Cook, stirring for 1 minute. Stir in the chard and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to thoroughly coat it with the oil. Stir in the beans. Cook for 3 minutes.
Stir in the reserved cooking liquid and the stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and stir in the macaroni. Boil for 6 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
Pass Parmesan cheese at the table.
For dessert, I would serve rich brownie flat cake. I make this at least once a month. The recipe is apparently from Good Living in the Sydney Morning Herald. My friend Fiona gave it to me a couple of years ago, and it’s now the cake I bake most. It makes dessert when served with berries and cream or mascarpone.
Rich Brownie Flat Cake
100g dark chocolate
3/4 cup sugar (I use castor – superfine to you North Americans)
1/2 cup plain flour (I use spelt or pharoah flour as I am wheat-free)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
Melt butter and chocolate (I do this in the microwave). Cool.
Whisk sugar and eggs, stir into cooled chocolate mixture with the vanilla.
Stir in sieved flour and nuts.
Bake for 30 minutes in 170C (325-350F) oven in a 21cm lined round pan.
And I have been praying about a song for John and Maggy. I have been praying for them with most songs I have heard or sung the last week or so. But this is the one I offer them today. And tomorrow. And the next day. We sang it at “church” last night. It’s one we sing often. This is a good version. I couldn’t find a Hillsong version on youtube, except a subtitled one. But this one should have you singing.