A fantastic winter warmer, this acquacotta recipe is a humble vegetable soup hailing from Tuscany, given added depth thanks to the addition of dried porcini mushrooms. It can easily be made vegan by omitting the eggs.
Cooked Water (Vegetable Soup) / Acqua Cotta
“I first ate Acqua Cotta in a trattoria in Montalcino. It was served on a big oval plate with a very generous helping of new season's olive oil. I had this version, with eggs, not far away a few years later and it was delicious. This will be enough to eat on its own as it is very filling. If you can get fresh porcini, use 200g, sliced. Poach the eggs separately if you prefer.” Theo Randall AND “Acquacotta hails from Maremma in Tuscany and is one of the region's most popular bread-based soups. Translating as ‘cooked water’, this peasant dish was invented as a way of using up stale bread and whichever herbs and vegetables shepherds and farmers had to hand.
- Ingredients: Serves 2 for lunch or supper
- Good olive oil for cooking
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
- 2 small carrots, finely chopped
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, sliced
- 1 tsp chopped thyme
- 50g dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 x 400g can Italian chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
- 4 slices of ciabatta bread
- 1 garlic clove, cut in half
- 4 organic free range eggs
- 1 tbsp white wine vinigar
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a wide saucepan, add the chopped vegetables with the sliced garlic and thyme, and sweat down for 10-15 minutes until softened. Stir frequently.
- Meanwhile, soak the dried porcini in 600mI hot water for 30 minutes, stirring twice. Transfer the porcini into a colander using a slotted spoon. Reserve the soaking water. Briefly rinse the porcini under cold water and spread out onto kitchen paper towels to dry off. Transfer to a chopping board and slice into pieces.
- Meanwhile, place a piece of muslin into a fine mesh sieve and let it rest over a saucepan. Pour the reserved mushroom soaking water through the muslin to catch any bits of grit. Keep the soaking water aside to use later.
- Add the porcini to the vegetables in the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the tomatoes, increase the heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in the reserved porcini soaking liquid, bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, and cook until the mixture thickens. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Leave to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, toast the slices of ciabatta, then rub each side with the garlic halves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Tear up 1 slice of the toasted bread and add the pieces to the bottom of each bowl. Keep the other slice to eat with the meal.
- Gently crack 4 eggs onto the soup, leaving a space between them, season the yolks and place a lid on for 5 minutes or until the eggs are cooked but still with soft yolks.
- Serve the soup into the bowls over the torn bread and carefully place the poached eggs on top. Serve with the slice of garlic bread and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. NOTE: If you prefer to poach the eggs here is the method: 1 Fill a small pan just over one third full of cold water and bring it to the boil. 2 Add the vinegar and turn down to simmer. 3 Crack the eggs one at a time into a small bowl and gently tip into the simmering water. Lightly poach for 2 -3 minutes until the whites are solid. 4 Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towels. 5 Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 6 Serve the soup into the bowls over the torn bread and carefully place the poached eggs on top.
A vegan diet is that which omits the use of animal produce altogether, including eggs, dairy and, for many vegans, honey.