Roasting the vegetables is the real key to success in this soup, they dehydrate and concentrate in flavour in the oven, and it also helps them to keep their shape in the liquid. The parmesan rind is an old trick, and one really worth a go if you haven’t tried it before. It adds a savoury depth to the soup and really fills out the flavour. Save up your parmesan rinds for this, or ask at your local deli. I’ve also popped some crunchy kale chips on the soup, you can find the recipe here.


125 grams small dried haricot or cannellini beans, soaked overnight (or use 250 grams drained tinned beans, but add them at the
end of the cooking)
3 carrots, rough 3 cm dice
3 parsnips, rough 3 cm dice
3 white sweet potatoes, rough 3 cm dice
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
extra virgin olive oil
salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
2 large brown onions, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 bulb fennel, diced
3 cm-thick piece pancetta, diced
1 fresh bay leaf
3 sprigs thyme
3 tablespoons tomato paste
10 cm piece parmesan rind (optional)
1½ litres quality chicken stock (preferably homemade)
200 grams green beans, cut into 4 cm lengths
½ bunch chard or silverbeet, cut into 2 cm widths including most of the stem
2 handfuls any short pasta
Grana Padano, finely grated, to serve


Preheat the oven to 180˚C fan-forced or 200˚C conventional.

Cook the soaked beans in simmering water for 20 minutes, or until just tender. Keep the beans a little on the firmer side, as they’ll be cooked further in the soup.

Meanwhile, toss the carrot, parsnip, sweet potato and fennel seeds in oil, season and tip onto a lined baking tray. Roast for 30 minutes.

Add a splash of oil to a large, heavy-based pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, fennel and pancetta and sweat, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes. Add the bay leaf, thyme and tomato paste to the pot and cook for 2 minutes while stirring. Add the roasted vegetables, cooked beans, Parmesan rind, stock and 1 litre of water and bring to a simmer. Add the green beans and chard and cook for 15 minutes. Add the pasta for the last 8 minutes of cooking. Keep an eye on the liquid level, it should be a thick soup but you may have to add a little more water.

Once cooked, adjust the seasoning (remove the parmesan rind if you like, but it will keep imparting flavour if you’re not serving all the soup at once) and serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, grated parmesan and, as an option, some crunchy kale chips.

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My 'carbonara' with fried egg & fresh tagliatelle

serves 4 mains
difficulty easy
prep time 10mins (approx.)
total time 25mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) tagliatelle, cream, Pancetta, Grana Padano, oregano

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If you’re in a luxurious mood, this pasta is also a great with truffles, just shave a generous (how generous is up to you and your bank balance) amount over the finished dish.


500 grams fresh tagliatelle
extra virgin olive oil
10 slices of pancetta
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 sprigs fresh oregano, picked
250 ml cream (35% fat)
salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
4 large organic eggs
100 grams Grana Padano


Cook the tagliatelle in a large saucepan of lightly salted boiling water.

While the pasta cooks, fry the pancetta slices in a large frying pan until crisp, adding a little oil as you go (how much will depend on how much fat renders out of the pancetta), remove from the pan and reserve. Add the garlic to the pan and fry over a low heat until lightly golden and fragrant. Add the oregano. Lift the just cooked pasta out of the pot and add directly to the pan. Add the cream and toss through with some of the crisp pancetta, season.

Over a medium flame, heat a good slug of olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the eggs sunny side up, keeping the yolks runny. Divide the pasta between your bowls, top with an egg and the remaining pancetta. Grate over a generous amount of Parmesan and serve immediately.

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Fennel & celeriac salad with crispy pancetta, parmesan & hot anchovy dressing

serves 4 starters
difficulty easy
prep time 10mins (approx.)
total time 40mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) Celery & Celeriac, Fennel, Pancetta, eggs, bread, Anchovies & Sardines

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In place of the Caesar’s bacon, there is crispy pancetta, and instead of cos lettuce, there’s fennel and celeriac, both cool-weather favourites of mine. Bagna cauda (‘hot bath’) is often served in Italy as a dipping sauce for crudites. Here it’s a rich and delicious dressing.


Bagna Cauda
7 anchovies, chopped
80 ml olive oil
40 grams butter
1 clove garlic, finely diced
15 grinds black pepper
1 tablespoon warm water
2 large eggs
½ sourdough loaf, torn into chunks, crusts discarded
30 ml olive oil
100 gram piece pancetta, thinly sliced into strips by hand
1 small celeriac, peeled and finely shaved
1 fennel, finely shaved
1 handful parsley, leaves picked and torn
50 grams parmesan
25 ml sherry vinegar


To make the bagna cauda, warm all ingredients except the water in a small pot. Check the seasoning, add the water, and stir through.

To make the salad, bring a small pot of water to the boil and add the eggs. Boil for 6 minutes to make soft-boiled eggs. Remove and let cool in cold water. Peel.

Toss bread chunks with olive oil and toast in 180°C oven for 10 minutes.

Fry the pancetta pieces until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.

Lay the celeriac, fennel and parsley in a shallow serving bowl or platter. Scatter with the bread pieces and top with the pancetta. Roughly break the eggs and scatter over. Shave over most of the parmesan, then dress with the bagna cauda and drizzle with the sherry vinegar. Scatter with a little more parmesan just before serving.

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Beer-poached blue-eye cod with pancetta & cabbage

serves 4 mains
difficulty a bit challenging
prep time 20mins (approx.)
total time 45mins (approx.)
main ingredient(s) fish, blue-eye cod, Pancetta, Cabbage & Brussels Sprouts, beer

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The smoky pancetta works so well with the cabbage, fish and yeasty beer but, even though the flavours are intense, the dish isn’t heavy at all.


100 ml pure cream
4 tablespoons horseradish
salt and pepper
120 ml extra virgin olive oil
6 thick slices rolled pancetta, cut into matchsticks
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
½ savoy cabbage, finely shaved
4 200 gram fillets of blue-eye cod, skin on
250 ml Carlsberg beer, or another lager
50 grams butter
4 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped
2 sprigs of dill, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
1 lemon, cut into wedges


Mix the cream with the horseradish and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a large heavy-based pot over medium heat. Add half the oil and the pancetta and fry for 2 minutes or until crisp. Add the fennel and caraway seeds, the shallots and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cabbage and stir it in, then cook for 10 minutes.

Season the fish and cut each fillet into 2 pieces widthways. In a fry pan over high heat, seal the fish skin side down for 3 minutes, then remove from the pan.

Place the fish on top of the cabbage and pour the beer over it. Add the butter, sprinkle the herbs over and place the lid on the pot. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes to cook the fish through.

Scatter the fish with extra dill, squeeze over the lemon, and spoon a little horseradish cream on each fish fillet. Take the pot to the table to serve.

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