Fall is here: time for broccoli soup

Suddenly is it fall in Rome: last week the temperature dropped and it is cool at night, though lovely daytime. Piazzas are fully of people having lunch in the sunshine, while in the evening outdoor apertivi are still going strong while young teenagers zip by on electric scooters. The balcony boxes have been replanted with azaleas and cyclamen. We have been doing our cambia di stagione at home: putting away summer clothes, pulling out warmer things to wear, dismantling floor fans after wiping off the summer dust and unearthing duvets. I was very ready for cooler weather, no complaints here. Life still feels a bit in limbo, especially after summer holidays, so having a proper change of season is quite nice.

We collected our vegetable box last week which included pumpkin, salad and a massive bag of mystery greens: spinach, beet, rughetta, kale, cicoria and a small cold snail. Normally I would make a frittta or have it ripassata in padella (lightly boiled, then drained and reheated in a frying pan with oil, garlic and chilli flakes). But now I need to plan for the occasional office lunch, as we are now back in the office two days a week, with masks and distancing. Aha – soup! I had been meaning to make Nigella’s Pea and broccoli soup with mint for ages, or possibly a broccoli-blue cheese soup. Time to rescue some of the least-wilted greens and make a basic green soup. With a thermos of soup and some crispbread on the side, this should do nicely for lunch tomorrow.

Broccoli, greens and pea soup

1 onion, peeled
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp butter or oil
500 gr broccoli, fresh or frozen
2 potatoes, peeled
100 gr mixed and washed greens (spinach, beet, salad, rughetta, kale)
250 gr frozen peas
1.25 litre vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Chop the garlic and onion. Heat butter or oil in a roomy saucepan, and gently fry the onions until soft. Chop the broccoli into florets – it does not need to be very fine as the soup will be blended after cooking. Add stock and bring to boil. Add chopped potatoes (optional, but it gives a bit more body) and peas and greens. Add salt and pepper. Boil with lid on until broccoli is soft (less than ten minutes) then blitz the soup in the pot with an immersion blender until smooth. Add more salt if needed. Serve warm. A little chopped basil or other herbs might be nice too.

Speaking of green, the green pass (a coronavirus health pass) is now mandatory for all workers in Italy from 15 October, so there have been some rallies against that. The green pass is also required for eating inside restaurants, and to access museums, theatres and cinemas, and for planes and long-distance trains. Generally people seem OK with it, and it feels much safer now – we still wear masks in shops and when near others outside, but life is a more normal and tourists are coming back. We even have a friend coming to visit next month. We are cautious, but more optimistic.

Fontana della Carlotta and Scala degli Innamorati, Garbatella.

We are abroad! Trip to Utsira

Yes, we are on holidays in Norway! It is amazing to be back after 20 months. We finally got our EU digital vaccination certificates, so off we went. It was a little nerve-wracking being among so many strangers at the airports and on board, but most people were good about distancing and keeping masks on. With the green pass, it was very smooth to travel. I was really nervous.

My brother kindly collected us at the Oslo airport and drove us to see my parents. Really good to see them again. The next day we headed west with them and are now on Utsira, a small island outside Haugesund. The Brits might know it from the shipping forecast. Rocks, sheep, lots of sky and sea, interesting street art and very nice people.

Barn art

We have had lovely food too: sjøkreps (Norwegian lobster), waffles and brown cheese, homebaked bread with Jarlsberg cheese, Hardanger plums, and of course endless cups of filter coffee. We are enjoying walks and cool weather: after sweltering Rome, it is wonderfully fresh here.

Norway was not hit badly by the pandemic, thank goodness. It is still really strange to be able to enter shops and restaurants here without a mask. We are double vaccinated but got tested before flying just in case, since we are with my elderly parents. Better to be careful.

I hope you are also able to have some safe and lovely holidays soon!

A cake with a view: vegan cocoa rice cooker cake

Back from our annual island holiday in Tuscany, where we had a week of seaside relaxation, lovely seafood and a brief respite from the heat of Rome. Just perfect.

As usual we had a birthday cake to make, but this year I gave up on on the grim oven in the rental flat and tried a rice cooker cake. Yes, my friend brought her rice cooker along and it even has a cake setting. This is also a vegan AND gluten-free cake, and it turned out very well indeed. Definitely something to try again.

Vegan cocoa rice cooker cake

1 cup plant-based milk (I used oat milk)
 1/2 cup sunflower oil
 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
 1/3 cup cocoa powder
 3/4 cup sugar
 1 tsp baking powder
 1/2 tsp coarse salt

Whisk oil and milk. Mix in flour, cocoa, sugar and baking powder. Line cooker base with baking parchment, to avoid having to carve it out later. I also brushed the rice cooker sides with a little sunflower oil, but my friend said that might not be needed. Pour batter in and sprinkle with salt. Turn rice cooker on to CAKE setting and hope for the best. Here, it took about 50 minutes until it beeped as ready, a little less time next time. Hard to tell when you really should not open the lid to peek.

Cool and serve. We slathered this in vegan pistachio cream so it was very good indeed!

I hope you also have a little summer joy.


PS Garbatella mentioned in the Guardian today, with a nice pasta recipe!