We reached out to Carina Contini to share some tasty recipes during lockdown that would keep us healthy and happy in the kitchen. For culinary inspiration, read on!
WINTER CHARD AND BEAN SOUP - SERVES 4
500g dried cannellini beans
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 large fennel bulb, finely chopped
500g rainbow chard
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 litre vegetable stock or ham stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g Calabrese sausage or chorizo sausage to finish
2 garlic cloves
large handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves
extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp rosemary, leaves only, very finely chopped
Soak the beans overnight in a large pot with plenty of cold water, to which you have added the bicarbonate of soda. This helps release the nasty gases that give beans their anti-social side effects.
The next day, rinse the beans and return them to the pot with plenty of fresh cold water. Bring to the boil, then drain and rinse under the tap.
Finely chop any coarse chard stalks.
In a large soup pan, fry the onion, fennel and the chopped chard stalks in a generous amount of olive oil until soft and golden. The longer and slower this process takes, the better the flavours will be in the finished soup.
Add the stock and the rinsed beans and bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you are using ham stock, you may not need to add any salt at this stage.
Remove the skin from the sausage and add to the pan in one piece.
Simmer for 40–60 minutes until the beans are soft. The time this will take depends on how dry the beans were when you started and how long you soaked them for.
Coarsely chop the chard leaves and finely chop any tender stalks. Add these to the soup and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the leaves have wilted.
Adjust the seasoning.
Remove the sausage from the pot.
If you want to make the soup a bit creamier, this is the moment to blend a quarter of it, then return the blended soup to the pan.
You can either serve the sausage separately or slice it and return it to the soup.
To finish, use a pestle and mortar to cream the garlic with a pinch of salt. Add the parsley leaves and a generous spoonful of the olive oil, and cream together.
Finally add the fennel seeds and rosemary and gently work to a runny paste, adding more oil if required.
Add a couple of spoonfuls of this finishing touch to the soup.
RADISH, ASPARAGUS & BROAD BEAN SALAD - SERVES 4
250g asparagus, trimmed
50g baby radishes
200g new-season broad beans, podded weight, blanched and skinned
15g mint leaves
1 heaped tbsp small capers in salt, rinsed and drained
5–6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
zest and juice of ½ unwaxed lemon
100g St Andrew’s Farmhouse Anster, or Cheshire or Lancashire cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Blanch the asparagus by plunging it in boiling salted water for a few minutes until tender but not overcooked. Refresh under cold running water, cut into quills and set aside.
Top, tail and slice the radishes thinly so you can see as much of their lovely red skins as possible.
Arrange the asparagus, broad beans and radishes on a large platter and sprinkle with the mint leaves and capers.
Mix together in a jug the olive oil, mustard and zest and juice of the lemon.
Drizzle over the vegetables. Very coarsely shave or crumble the cheese on top and season with a little salt and pepper.
COFFEE & COCONUT CAKE -SERVES 6
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g light brown sugar
2 large eggs
200g self-raising flour, sieved
1 tsp baking powder
50g desiccated coconut, toasted
2 shots of espresso, or 2 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 50ml hot water, or 2 tbsp Camp coffee dissolved in 1–2 tbsp full-fat milk
toasted desiccated coconut, to decorate
for the frosting
300g icing sugar
50ml double cream
50ml espresso, or 2 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 50ml hot water, or 2 tbsp Camp coffee dissolved in 1–2 tbsp full-fat milk
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4.
Line the base of two 20cm nonstick cake tins with greaseproof paper.
Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy.
Add one egg at a time with a little of the flour to stop the mixture curdling, then add the remaining flour and the baking powder.
Fold in the coconut and espresso.
Divide the mixture between the two tins and smooth the mixture level.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until risen and golden.
Remove from the oven, turn the cakes out and cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make the frosting.
Beat the icing sugar, cream and espresso together in a bowl until light and fluffy.
When the cakes are cool, remove the greaseproof paper and place one sponge on a board or plate.
Spread half the frosting on top, then carefully place the other sponge, bottom side up, on top of the frosting. Use a palette knife to smooth the remaining frosting over the cake.
Decorate with a generous sprinkle of toasted coconut.