Tuscany is calling ….

I am busy researching our trip to Italy later this year and of course this naturally includes food! Suddenly my repertoire is including more Italian dishes.

One of my distinct food memories of my previous visit to Tuscany was that I was surprised by the number of dishes based on dried beans.

Cannellini beans, the small white ones, are often served on their own, beautifully seasoned, as part of an anti-pasti selection or as a hot or cold side dish.

A mixture of beans (you see these already pre-packed in food stores) is used in hearty soups and stews.

These are either vegetarian or beef based.

Beans are so healthy

Dried beans are packed with proteins and minerals and are fat and cholesterol free. In fact, it is claimed that beans play a part in lowering blood cholesterol. They provide valuable plant based proteins in a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Together with a fair amount of complex carbohydrates they provide a meal, packed with energy and vital nutrients, especially when additional nutritional vegetables are added.

Use a pressure cooker….. or conventional cooking

With chilly Cape weather my pressure cooker is permanently on my kitchen counter. This appliance perceived to be a pricey investment, but when you consider that it costs less than a tank of petrol for your car in South Africa. Versus the cooking time and power used it’s really a no brainer to buy one!

As a kid I was terrified of the pressure cooker as it spat and hissed on the AGA stove and occasionally there were bursts of steam as my Mom rushed to handle the drama in the kitchen! The modern electric appliance is so safe and easy to use, without any of these dramatic occurrences.

This recipe is for a Tuscan Bean Soup, but it can easily be converted to a stew by halving the amount of stock, making it less liquid and heartier. If you want to add meat, merely add 200g diced beef per person and a sprig or two of rosemary. This stew will be one of those one pot meals that requires nothing extra.

In Italy chunks of fresh bread are usually served with the soup. Nearly every dish is finished off with either a splash of Extra Virgin Olive Oil or generous shavings of Parmesan or Pecorino Cheese.

Enjoy this hearty Tuscan Bean Soup (Recipe here)