Whenever – and it’s a regular event I’m afraid – I look up at the clock, expecting it to be 11.30am and finding it’s 1.30pm already, I whip up some very simple soup, often involving jars of ready-cooked pulses.
This 20-minute wonder is just what you need on a cold winter’s day when you’re hungry and in a hurry. I use cime di rapa – turnip tops – which are produced in abundance on the flat loamy shores of Lake Trasimeno: I love its mustardy aftertaste. I rarely see the turnips themselves on sale – I think they’re considered fit only for pigs – but the leaves are a regular feature on local plates and the fields left, for one reason or another, unharvested by farmers produce flowers which cut immense swathes of acid yellow through the landscape, glowing in a too-bright-to-be-real way when caught by the setting sun. Having said this, for the sake of this soup, any kind of leaf vegetable, from kale to cabbage, will do.
Chickpeas – 300 g soaked & cooked
Potatoes – 2 medium
Turnip tops (cime di rapa) – 300 g
Onion – 1 large
Garlic – 2 cloves
Chilli – small piece, optional
Peel the onion and garlic and chop them coarsely, then drop them into a saucepan in which you’ve heated a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Put the chilli in too at this point, if you’re using it.
In the mean time, prepare and wash your greens and put them in a large saucepan to steam.
When the onions are going soft, add the peeled and chopped potato – the smaller the pieces, the quicker they will cook – and half of the chickpeas which should have been strained and rinsed. Toss them with the garlic and onion for a minute or so, then pour in 1.25 litres of boiling water or stock (if you use stock cubes, add one now). With the saucepan covered, bring this to the boil, and leave it bubbling hard until the potatoes are soft – about five-ten minutes, depending on your potatoes. When they’re ready, remove the chilli and blitz the soup with a stick blender until it’s smooth.
When the turnip tops are cooked, chop them a little and add them to the soup, along with the remaining chickpeas. At this point you’ll need to add more liquid: gradually pour in the water you used to steam the vegetables, adding enough to get a consistency which is nice and creamy without being too runny or too gluggy.
Cook for another couple of minutes, to get the flavours to blend nicely, and serve the soup with a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.
© Anne Hanley, 2012