with Grana Padano cheese
With lots of lettuce in my cupboard what better way to use it up than to cook with it, as it’s perfect for simple stews like this and for adding to stocks for gravies and sauces. Lettuce for some is a mere crunch on the plate, so to speak. Not just for me as I love to cook with them in soups as well. The French, of course, have it to a t with their Petit Pois (peas) à La Française, which is where my influence stems from. Lettuce leaves really are packed full of flavour and, not only that, are surprisingly nutritious, apparently. I’m still out on that one. Especially as I don’t have the choice of buying organic. With this particular stew I’ve purposely kept the photos vegetarian suitable, for a change, as meat isn’t really necessary with this recipe. Having said that I ate this with thin, dry cured spicy Polish kabanos sausages for lunch earlier. Anyway, this stew would be great with shredded kale as a sub for the lettuce, even though the former would be quite a lot more powerful in flavour. What really makes this for me is cooking with part of the rind of my block of Grana Padano hard cheese (think along the lines of Parmesan). As it’s relatively expensive here in the UK there’s no chance I’m throwing out that rind! Hah, it’s trimmed and chopped and used to full effect within this dish, lending a subtle cheese flavour as well as a wonderful creamy texture to the dish.
- 100g x dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight, well rinse following day and cooked to pack’s instructions OR see instructions below
- 200mlx cooking liquor, from the beans
- olive oil
- 200g x romaine lettuce, rinsed and shredded
- 1 x dried bay leaf, split
- 2 – 3 x organic garlic cloves, root end cut off, peeled and crushed/minced
- 1 x sprig fresh thyme, rinsed
- 1 x stem curly leaf parsley, rinsed
- ¹/4 x packed teaspoon dried sage
- 1 x tablespoon olive oil
- 1 x tablespoon plain (AP)
- 200ml x cold water
- 1 x organic vegetable stock cube
- ½ x rind from the block of Grana Padano cheese, trimmed
- seasoning, both freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
- green olives, to serve – optional
- fresh peas, to serve
- Polish thin dry cured kabanos sausages, rendered of fat separately, to serve – optional
- freshly snipped of chopped flat leaf parsley, to serve
- single (light) cream, to serve
- freshly grated Grana Padano cheese, to serve
- After soaking the beans overnight rinse well and put them in a large saucepan with plenty of cold water to cover. Bring to a boil on electric heat No 4 with a lid on pan, carefully drain into a colander, repeat this process another time. Third time bring to a boil, reduce heat to No 2 and simmer until cooked, reserving 200ml of the cooking liquor for the sauce. If you taste the liquor at stage three it can be quite strong. Don’t worry too much about that as it will add immeasurably to the overall taste. Otherwise, ignore these instructions and cook to the instructions on its pack.
- Once the beans are cooked add them, along with the 200ml cooking liquor, to a large heavy-based pan on heat No 3. Add the garlic, shredded lettuce, bay leaf, the rind of the Grana Padano cheese and the herbs. Bring to near boiling point with a lid on pan, reduce heat to No 2 and simmer until the lettuce is nicely wilted.
- Add the flour and olive oil to a small saucepan and put on heat No 1 only. Allow about 5 minutes to cook out the flour. Any signs of bubbling then take off heat and allow to cool before putting back on heat. The flour must not change colour nor burn.
- Pour in the extra water and the stock cube and stir through to combine and dissolve the stock cube completely. When stock cube is dissolved add the roux, as in the instruction directly above, and stir constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Up the heat to do this if necessary, as the roux will help to thicken the sauce. Taste for any needed seasoning, add some single cream if using, remove the bay leaf, thyme and parsley and discard those and serve with green olives and crusty bread and lots of freshly grated Grana Padano. Or serve sautéed potatoes like I’ve done in the photos.
- If using kabanos sausages then slice them into discs, add them to a dry pan and put them on heat No 2 and stir occasionally. That way the heat will render them off some of their fat.
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