Italian food & drink is among the most sort out. Pizzas, pasta, wine, well pretty much any yummy food out there. But Italy like the UK has different foods and tweaks on the main recipes depending what region you visit. Out of all the provinces and town in Italy I think Tuscany is my favourite. Full of sunshine and vines their food is heavy on their red wine and tomatoes. While these may seem a simple ingredient the food in this region is very rich on taste and very filling. They have a tradition of unsalted bread – you’ll find this used in the recipe below for Tuscan bruschetta. While you might find this a little bland it’s the perfect accompaniment for soaking up the tomatoes, the local olive oil, hints of basil and garlic.
A friend of mine lives in a small hamlet in Italy and sells Olive oil from their farm across Europe. At harvesting time she provides food for the workers and makes this incredible bean stew using local basics. It’s a wonderful stew for adding a touch of summer through autumn and winter and its superbly filling.
6 medium-sized juicy tuscan tomatoes
basil leaves, roughly torn
extra virgin olive oil
6 large slices of tuscan saltless bread (I used GF sourdough for mine tho)
1 or more garlic clove, peeled
Dice the tomatoes and put them into a bowl. Add the basil and season with salt. Mix through about 3 table spoons of extra virgin olive oil.
Grill the bread slices on both sides and rub one side of each with the whole garlic clove, some choose to dice the garlic and mix it with the tomatoes, it’s your choice. Cover with the tomato mix and if you like add some more olive oil.
Tuscan Bean Stew
2 tsp olive or rapeseed oil
4-6 shallots, sliced
1 small red pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
2 small carrots, sliced
1 stick celery, chopped
227g (8oz) can chopped tomatoes in rich natural juice
150ml (1/4 pint) homemade or reduced-salt vegetable stock
5 tbsp medium-dry cider (or extra vegetable stock)
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp dried Italian herb seasoning
Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
420g (15oz) can butter beans in water, drained and rinsed
85g (3oz) French beans, trimmed and cut into short lengths
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4.
Heat olive oil in a flameproof, ovenproof casserole dish. Add shallots, red pepper, garlic (if using), carrots and celery; cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in tomatoes, stock, cider, tomato puree, herb seasoning and black pepper; bring to the boil. Cover, transfer casserole to oven and bake for 45 minutes.
Remove from oven; stir in butter beans and green beans. Re-cover; return to oven and bake for a further 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.