While it is not extremely likely that we would have been harvesting olives tonight, I find that this hearty and warming soup transports you to a picturesque rustic countryside scenery staffed by people doing just that (at least in my imagination). It is inspired by Alice Hart’s simply fabulous – in name and in taste – Olive Pressers’ soup which we had before as it is. I would have made it the same today, only I wanted to change things (e.g. go to a more Spanish olive grove) and use up stuff which needed to go: chorizo instead of bacon, leftover beans from an opened jar and so it obviously required a new identity (some people might say I remembered the name wrongly, but what do they know).
In Germany we like a hearty soup made from pulses in Germany – it is the essence of comfort on frosty days when you have been working outside (gardening, moving, long hikes, harvest fire gatherings…or like we just did: changing a flat tire). My dad always enjoyed a hearty Ebsensuppe (pea soup, made with dried peas) and he was in his element having it made in quantities fit to feed an army (to use the German proverb here) for any gathering of the same size. He always ordered / supplied a wagonload by the THW (German Federal Agency for Technical Relief), for whom he worked for 50 years as a volunteer. This would be a soup after his taste, meaty in flavour (he would though bemoan the miniscule amount of meat in it) but would be delighted by the kale which he loved.
Olive pickers’ soup
Inspired by Alice Hart’s Friends at my table
100g (3½ oz) chorizo (leave out if you want to stay vegetarian, add a little more spice though)
olive oil (always extra virgin)
150g (5 1/3oz) chopped kale
½ small pumpkin (I used Hokkaido), diced
4-5 carrots, cut into coins
1 fennel bulb, finely sliced
2 leeks, sliced into thick rounds
2 celery sticks, chopped into half moons
2 potatoes, diced
1 zucchino, cut into half moons
400g (14oz) jar cannelini beans (it is nice to use dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked – if you can plan ahead, today I needed to use up a jar of beans; if you like some more beans with a bite in the soup, reserve some and add shortly before serving)
bouquet garni (bay leaf, a sprig of rosemary, 2-3 sage leaves)
2 tablespoons tomato purée
1l (a little over 1 quart or 1 pint) vegetable stock or water
(organic vegetable stock powder)
1-2 teaspoon smoked paprika
piment d’espelette (or cayenne pepper)
rustic bread, Pugliese would be perfect
If you are using dried beans, soak about 200g overnight and cook the next day with a few peperoncini, salt, rosemary, thyme & bay leaf for about 1-1 ½ hours. Reserved about a third. Prepare all the vegetables in advance, wash, peel, slice, dice etc & cut the chorizo into small dice.
Heat the a few drops of olive oil in a medium dutch oven (for this amount, I used a smaller Le Creuset, but had to squeeze in the kale) or any pot you have and lightly fry the chorizo pieces. Add all the vegetables (minus reserved beans, if you have decided t do so), the herbs, the peperoncini, tomato puree and stir to mix. Pour the stock or water into the pan (no need to have everything covered), season with a little salt, pepper, stock powder (yes), cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, stir occasionally and simmer for about 30-40 minutes. The soup should be quite thick leaning more towards a stew. Five minutes before serving add the reserved cooked beans and let them heat trough. If you are using dried beans you might want to adjust the cooking times since they might cook differently. Check the seasoning, we liked it quite spicy and smoky and added a healthy amount of smoked paprika and piment d’espelette. Remove the herb stalks and if you can find them the peperoncini.
To serve: Either with bread on the side or toast slices of bread according to the number of your crowd and rub with garlic and place at the bottom of your bowls, top with ladles of the soup. Rough shards or coarsely grated parmiggiano reggiano is another luxury.