The Savoury Side

Chef Giorgio’s Three Cabbage Lucca Soup (prepared & served under a Tuscan sky)

This is Chef Giorgio Giusfredi…

Chef Giorgio took on the challenge of cooking a vegetarian meal for my sisters and I in Italy. He arrived at the villa, in his typically relaxed and friendly style, with boxes and bags of goodies. We had no idea what he was about to prepare for us as the whole meal and experience was a gift from our incredibly generous host, Sonja.

Giorgio served us cheese & herb bruschetta, mushroom bruschetta and tomato brushcetta. Well, those were just the appetisers. What followed was a typical ‘Lucchese’ soup… then a pasta dish with chickpeas and THEN … a local bean dish.

The bean dish was prepared in the ‘Lucca way’ with sage, tomato and black pepper. To end off the feast, Giorgio created a simple dessert: poached peaches in wine which he served with ice cream. All cooked around the pool, under a hazy blue Tuscan sky. Needless to say, we sat around the table for most of the day!

My sisters and I have been bugging Chef G for his soup recipe ever since. It’s just arrived, written in his Italian-English.  To explain, ‘moil’ means hydrate or moisten and ‘tomatoes passata’ refers to skinned and seeded bottled tomatoes. Pinto beans can be used instead of Lucca beans.

The thing is, this recipe is never going to taste the same if it is prepared anywhere else in the world. As Giorgio says, ‘the very characteristic taste and flavour of Lucca Soup comes from the Tuscan black cabbage.’  My sister ‘Gablicious’ and I are still going to give it a bash anyway, using local cabbages and home-made bread.

Zuppa Lucchese

For 8

250 gr. Lucca’s dried red beans

1,5 kg. Cutted onion celery and carrot

500 gr. Black cabbage

500 gr. White cabbage

500 gr. Crispy cabbage

200 gr. Potatoes

200 gr. Zucchini

200 gr. Tomatoes passata

500 gr. Old salted hard Tuscany bread

Erbs(laurel, sage, Rosemary, basil parsley), salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil.


Moil and boil the beans. Fry in a pan half quantity of celery, carrot, onion, with erbs, oil, pepper, salt and the tomato sauce. Incorporate with beans and blend everything to prepare a bean stock. Add to the stock the other half of celery, carrot onion,  all the other vegetables cutted in slices, water and a lot of extra virgin olive oil. Let it cook 5 hours with very low flame. Adjust with salt. Moil the sliced and oiled old bread with a lot of soup. Let it rest for 20 minutes. Serve with extra virgin olive oil and black pepper.

More pics: since we didn’t know what was to follow, we were mad enough to have second helpings of the ‘Luccese Soup’…

Mad because we couldn’t quite fit in all that was to follow…

What a meal, what a day…

Thank you Sonja, Giorgio, J’y (!) and Christo. Also to our Italian God-father and Mama Mia x

Chef Giorgio Giusfredi can be contacted at


General how to's & recipes, The Savoury Side

Cauliflower Soup by Starwalker

This post is especially for Anairam who likes soups and dogs (not real ones in soup of course)

I’m not so sure I’m into Cauliflower Soup but Starwalker’s take puts it into a whole different broth-game!  Thanks for another fun piece, SK:     

For those of you who don’t already know this (and I’m sure there are several), cauliflower is not – like Latin – a dead language. There is stuff you can do with that sheepish little vegetable that skulks around supermarket fridges like packets of miniature Maltese poodles.  
For many years in my life cauliflower was almost exclusively a type of texture that sat under cheese sauce on the edge of the Sunday Chicken Roast. It wasn’t exactly repulsive. It wasn’t, like broccoli or sprouts, a reason in itself to have a screaming, sulking fit that ended in you sitting at the table until the early hours of the morning.  
It was just stuff really. When I saw it in the Supermarket it reminded me of Sunday lunch. Sometimes, as a young man, I would just buy it anyway, keep it around in the fridge for a while and then throw it away when it went the wrong colour. Also there was the issue of the cheese sauce, the roux, which was a tough ask for me at the time.
So, speedy conzales, extra easy, off the shelf, sexy cauliflower puree:     

  • Steam a bunch of cauliflower in a pot of salted water (just a couple of finger widths of water)
  • Drain and toss into the blender. Add a couple of spoons of butter and a tin of cream (I know it’s never healthy with me)
  • Add a pinch of salt and half a tsp of hot paprika. I have a beautiful Spanish one named La Chinata, if you ever come across it
  • Liquidise
  • Pour into a bowl and dress with a thin streak of hot red paprika.

Delicious (and enough to make a girl think that you are both original and culinarily well endowed).  You need to throw this sort of meal out with a sentence that might start something like this:  What these old pieces of cauliflower? You’re hungry? Well, I’m sure I can think of something…

Journal, The Savoury Side

Guest Writer Starwalker’s Irish Soup for the Camper’s Soul

This is my friend, Starwalker.  Yip, the crazy one mentioned in the post below.  What I failed to say in my last post though is this: how amazing it is that we are still friends.  We’ve had some interesting times.

I recall, for instance, a particular occasion when Starwalker tripped and fell on me (one moonlit night as we trekked up a slippery mountain path which I shall never trek along again).  I ended up with my left arm in a plaster cast for several months.  Note: I am left handed.

I have since taken all trips with Starwalker out of the equation.  Not only because of said broken arm but also due to circumstances on a particular camping trip with Starwalker up The West Coast.  I’ll spare the details other than to say that it was his cooking that saved the day. 

It was, in fact, his Camping Stew that took the blues away, his Irish Camping Stew.  He’s just posted the recipe to me.  Here are his words:

  • This recipe has nothing to do with the Irish, except for the fact that I have Irish genes a few generations back and I heard about it before you did. 
  • It is not, in any sense of the imagination a gourmet meal. For a gourmet, calling it food in the first place is a bit of a stretch.
  • Neither is it a camping soup (the author just likes camping) but the beauty of it is that it can be concocted for a few bucks with ingredients available in almost every shop in South Africa.
  • It is also delicious, in an Irish camping sort of way.

1 Open a tin of cream of tomato soup. Try and find a good one.

2 Open a can of creamy style sweetcorn, emphasis on the words creamy style.

3 Open a tin of cream.

4 Combine ingredients together with salt and pepper in a pot.

5 Apply to heating device.

6 Put a loaf of farm bread (make your own if you can!) next to the fire.

7 Pour a bowl of delicious soup, smear bread with a wedge of butter and kick your feet up under the stars!

p.s. If the numbering system looks weird, that’s because I’m Irish in my little finger.

p.p.s. This really is delicious, really.

I call it Starwalker’s Irish Soup for the Camper’s Soul.  He asked me to post it.  I did.

(He said he’d cook me Seared Salmon with mashed potatoes and asparagus or Butterflied Prawns with his flaming brandy sauce.  Actually he said he’d cook me anything, anything for a bit of publicity on WIU.  So what’s a girl to do?!)

General how to's & recipes, The Savoury Side

Guest Writer Starwalker’s Lamb Knuckle Stew…

This is Starwalker.  My sweet friend.  My one of a kind. 

Starwalker cooks like a dream and I’m always asking him to do guest writing on my blog which he never gets around to coz he’s always too busy (um) cooking (or playing 4 poker games simultaneously on-line).  So, when he finally let me know he’d put a piece together for my blog, I jumped for joy.  Except there was one small hitch: it was a MEAT dish and I don’t eat meat.  And I don’t post what I haven’t tried myself.  SO, I put forward the question to Starwalker:

Your food always rocks but I don’t post what I haven’t tried myself… and being a pesco-vege, how’m I going to get this right? Much love, Knucklebrain

What I didn’t mention is that Starwalker has an evil twin.  His response:   

Oh don’t be ridiculous – just say Guest writer recipe that you can’t try because you are vegetard but its brilliant nevertheless – or whatever!!!! and don’t ask for anymore!!!

Okay, so a little persuasion goes a long way!  Especially since his evil twin threatened very bad things indeed.  Anyhow, since I kinda love Starwalker and everything he’s ever cooked for me, how could I resist?

Here’s his Lamb Knuckle Stew recipe, as written by him, as cooked by him and to be honest, if I wasn’t such a pesco-vegetard, I would be devouring this dish (like his other less vegetard friends are actually doing, by the way):

Meat – there are two choices, lamb knuckle (shank) or oxtail. They have different qualities but perhaps most important is cooking time. I think oxtail ultimately is nicer and juicier but if you want the stew ready within four hours use lamb knuckle. You can cook this and leave it overnight but if you cook the lamb more than four hours it starts to get a little stringy. I’ll do the lamb knuckle version here. Remember rule number one – don’t rush anything!
  • Take the knuckles (about 2-3 per person) and toss them in a pot with some butter and a bit of oil. Once they are nicely brown take them out and set aside. If the butter is burned, clean the pot completely for next step.
  • Chop up a few shallots and red onions and throw them in the pot with some olive or grape seed oil. Fry them slowly for about 20 minutes until they are soft and translucent. I like to make a colourful mix of tubers and also throw in leeks, spring onions and maybe a little chili.
  •  Toss in a can of good quality Italian chopped tomatoes. You can use fresh tomatoes but they have to be super ripe and prepared correctly so rather go for a tin of chopped Rosa tomatoes. Cook the onion and tomatoes goo slowly with a dash of Maldon salt and black pepper.
  • Place the knuckles back into the pot on top of your delicious base and add a half a liter of water and half a liter of good red wine. Add a cup of stock. I make my own stock but if your back is against the wall just buy a good beef or oxtail stock and mix it with boiling water before adding it to the pot.
  • Chuck in a couple of handfuls of chopped up peeled carrots and set temperature to high. There must be enough liquid so that everything is only just covered. Boil at high-ish temperature for about half an hour or until the carrots start to soften.
  • Add in a bouquet garni. You can buy them ready made in a spice jar at big supermarkets or try and gather the fresh components and tie them together with a string or in a muzlin sock. Main spices are parsley, thyme and bay leaves.
  • Simmer at low heat for four hours. You can skim off accumulated fats if you want. When the meat is of the required succulence, switch it off and let it sit, preferably overnight.
  • Half an hour before serving, stir in a tin or two of either good quality kidney beans or white cannellini beans. For pure red stew keep colours all the same and use the kidney beans. When the stew is heating up, if you feel it is too dry, add the liquid from the bean cans, which is already reduced and flavourful.

NB! If at any point you either rushed, or forgot the pot, or put them temperature too high, you may have burned it. Transfer content to another pot WITHOUT scraping the bottom and leave the bitter stuff behind J

For another option add chili and pumpkin to the mix (pumpkin added about half way through, chilli at the beginning). You can also serve it with delicious Samp and Beans for a South Africa Flavour. Beans must be soaked overnight.

For a final flourish, when serving, prepare a bowl of fresh gremolata of finely chopped garlic, parsley, chilli and lemon zest to give it that extra zing!

General how to's & recipes, Photo Series, The Savoury Side

The Viking’s Secret to Great Pasta…

Here is the Viking cooking his Broccoli & Blue Cheese Pasta


Here is The Viking adding his secret ingredient (the one he adds to ALL his pasta dishes)


But will he part with his secret?






Maybe during lunch?!


Perhaps after this mouthful?


Perhaps after I've had a second helping?!


'I'll tell you,' says my lovely aunt, Candy


She whispers the secret across the table while The Viking tops up the bowl. 'Oh my word, can it really be that simple?' I stammer


'So all you have to do is make some garlic butter by crushing garlic in a pestle and mortar with butter and salt and that's it?' I say


'MAYBE,' says The Viking.


'There might be a little more to it than that!' says The Viking. 'The Secret is to add the garlic butter to the pasta and mix it up BEFORE you add your sauce, whatever that sauce may be.' And there you have it!