Hearty cabbage and bacon soup
Serves 4 as a warming supper
1 head Savoy cabbage or combination of cabbage leaves e.g. white, pointed, cavalo nero, January King
300g pancetta or unsmoked bacon, cut into rough chunks
½ large onion, sliced
2 sprigs thyme
1 pinch dried chilli flakes
1L chicken or vegetable stock
250g melting cheese e.g. gruyere, cheddar or taleggio
½ loaf bread, ideally with a good crust and chewy grain, sourdough is great
3 fat garlic cloves
Sea salt and pepper
What you need
A large deep ovenproof pot
What to do
Chop the bacon into bite sized chunks and put it in the pot over a low heat until the fat runs out and the meat begins to brown and crisp. Slice the onion thinly, add to the pot with a pinch of salt and sweat until soft, golden and beginning to caramelise.
Add the thyme and chilli and season. Go easy on the salt, especially if your bacon is smoked.
Chop the cabbage leaves roughly into large chunks and shreds, discarding any tough cores. Rinse the leaves in a strainer under running water, give them a shake then add to the onions and bacon and turn the heat up to high. Cook, stirring constantly, until the cabbage wilts and starts to brown, about 10 minutes.
Add the stock, cover, bring to the boil then simmer gently for half an hour.
While the cabbage is cooking, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Toast thick slices of bread and while they are hot rub both sides with the cut surface of a clove of garlic. Salt and pepper the toast too. Grate the cheese coarsely, or otherwise slice or break it up as best you can.
When the oven is hot and the cabbage is soft taste the soup, adjust the chilli to as hot as you'd like and season and/or reduce the broth if it tastes bland or weak. Once it's to your liking, top the soup with overlapping layers of toast, and then cover the toast completely with cheese. Season again and bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and brown and the kitchen smells wonderful.
Serve the whole pot at the table with a big ladle and shallow soup bowls, so everyone gets a good mound of cabbage and bacon, lots of spicy broth and a cheesy, garlic bready topping.