It was about twenty years ago. I was sitting in my first class of Italian B ( B standing for Beginners). I was terrified! The introductory class was mostly in English, sprinkled with bits of Italian here and there. The lecturer, Walter ( say this with a V ) suddenly planted an explosive seed in my brain when he said, ‘Tutto Fa Brodo’. This was an epiphanic moment, the lightning bolt: a simple Italian proverb that swept me into the wonderful world of Italian language and its culture. Tutto fa brodo literally means ‘everything makes soup’, or, ‘whatever you put in soup will work’, or metaphorically, ‘a little bit of everything is good for you’. Italian proverbs invloving food and wine are innumerable and often humourous, highlighting times of need, frugality and seasonality. When I gather bits and pieces from the orto, my vegetable garden, the mantra begins anew, ‘Tutto Fa Brodo, Tuttto fa Brodo’. No vegetable soup is ever the same. That’s the lovely thing about soup, the recipes are always so flexible. Use what’s on hand.
Today’s late Spring garden provides the last of the cavolo nero; it’s a bit woody and needs to be used, silver beet (chard), a perennial in the garden, early season broad beans, side shooting brocoli, leeks, spring onions and all sorts of herbs.
I always start with a little soffritto or quick fry of a few ingredients to give the soup a base on which to build. A typical Italian soffritto includes finely diced onion, celery and carrot. I often make one with garlic, anchovies and chopped rosemary, a little trick I learnt from Marcella Hazan years ago. As the anchovies melt, they give a salty earthiness to a soup. Of course they can be omitted.
This is not so much a recipe, but an ode to Spring in the form of soup. It’s so green, it makes you feel holy!
3 or more garlic cloves, finely chopped.
1 small branch of rosemary, leaves stripped, finely chopped.
6 anchovies, chopped
3 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive oil.
Other soup ingredients.
2 leeks, finely sliced across, pale parts only. ( save other bits for stock)
2 waxy potatoes, eg Nicola or Dutch Creams, diced.
5 leaves Cavolo Nero or Tuscan Kale, remove centre stem if tough, then shred.
3 large leaves of silver beet, (chard) rolled then cut across finely. I like to include the stem.
a few handfuls of young shelled broadbeans,
fresh herbs such as parsely, oregano
salt, pepper to taste
vegetable stock cube, optional, or stock.
grated parmigaino, reggiano or grana padano
- Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan. Add the anchovies, rosemary and garlic, stirring the whole time so that the anchovies melt. *
- Then add leeks and potatoes, keep stirring, then the Tuscan kale and silver beet, keep stirring, then cover well with stock or water.
- Cook on medium heat until the potatoes are soft and the greens are cooked but still vibrant.
- Add the baby broad beans (no need to double shell the young ones).
- Cook for a few minutes longer. Add more hot stock if you prefer a wetter soup. Taste. Add a stock cube if needed. Season. Add fresh herbs.
- Stir through some grated parmigiano. Serve with more parmigiana at the table, along with some very good bread.
For a more substantial soup, you could also add tiny pasta shapes towards the end of cooking, for example risoni or orzo, cooked to the required time.