This is a recipe I developed from the classic Italian dish ribollita – the ultimate peasant food. If making your own, prepare the focaccia first.
TUSCAN LENTIL & GRAIN BROTH
100g onion 125g carrot 250g celery 75ml (¹/³ cup) extra virgin olive oil 8g (1½ teaspoons) sea salt 4 cloves of garlic 15g (¼ cup) parsley leaves 2 x 400g cans of whole plum
tomatoes 100g (½ cup) puy lentils 85g (½ cup) barley or spelt grain 1 litre (4 cups) water 125g cavolo nero, cut into 5mm
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Freshly ground black pepper Dice onion, carrot and celery into 5mm cubes. Place in a saucepan with the olive oil and salt; gently heat. Cook very slowly, taking care not to colour onions. Chop garlic and parsley together to create a paste and add to saucepan. Cook very slowly, for about 30 minutes, until vegetables are soft. Meanwhile, empty tomatoes into a sieve over the sink and gently rinse sauce from them. Shake dry; cut into 1cm dice.
When vegetables are cooked, add chopped tomatoes and continue to cook gently for 20 minutes. Add lentils, barley and water. Cook gently for about 30 minutes with a lid on, until the barley is plump and soft and the lentils are cooked. If the mix begins to run dry, add a little more water, but not too much – you want a thick broth. Add cavolo nero and cook gently for another 15 minutes until soft, then remove from heat. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Spoon broth into serving bowls and drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil – the best you can find. Add a little black pepper and serve with focaccia. Serves 4
500g (3½ cups) strong white bread flour (type 00), plus extra to dust
25g (2½ tablespoons) fine
semolina 10g (2½ teaspoons) dried yeast 13g (2½ teaspoons) sea salt 320ml (1¹/³ cups) warm water 35ml (7 teaspoons) extra virgin
olive oil, plus extra to grease 40ml (8 teaspoons) top-quality
extra virgin olive oil 20g (3½ teaspoons) sea salt flakes Mix flour, semolina, dried yeast and 1½ teaspoons of salt in a bowl. Add the warm water and regular olive oil and mix together to form a rough dough. Turn out onto a clean work surface lightly dusted with flour and knead for 10 minutes until supple. Grease a 17cm x 25cm x 2cm ceramic roasting dish with olive oil.
Fold dough over twice to get a smooth top, then roll or press into a rough rectangle the size of the roasting dish. Put dough into the dish and stretch to the edges. Cover with a clean tea towel and place somewhere a little warmer than room temperature for about an hour – it needs to have risen to the top of the tray.
Preheat oven to 160°C (fan). Poke your fingers into the dough in rows to create dimples, making sure you touch the bottom of the dish when you poke each hole. Sprinkle dough with 1 teaspoon of salt.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden and risen. Remove from the oven and immediately drizzle the top-quality olive oil evenly over the top and sprinkle with the remaining sea salt flakes. Leave to cool 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Makes 1 Richard Buckley is a British chef whose Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen in Bath is one of the world’s best plant-focused restaurants. Edited extract from Plants Taste Better by Richard Buckley (Jacqui Small, $49.99) Photography: Kim Lightbody