‘Cooked Water’ or Acquacotta is an Italian soup with no real definitive recipe. The ingredients are chopped and changed depending on the season or the area of Italy it is made in. The only requirements for a true aquacotta are stale bread, an egg and chopped tomatoes. The rest of the ingredients are up to you.
The recipe below is roughly Tuscan. The hilly countryside, laden in the winter with naked grape vines and evergreen olive trees, where nearly every field has a small patch of vegetables; wild chicories, cavelo nero and frost hardy, overgrown dandelions. Our British greens, proud and waxy, would be just as fine in the recipe below.
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Rib Celery
A large fistful of mixed greens - kale, savoy cabbage, spring greens, cavelo nero, dandelion leaves etc
A couple of medium, ripe tomatoes, chopped
A mixture of woody or dried winter herbs – fennel fronds, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme etc
2 thick slices of dense, country style bread
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and add the celery, sliced into fine arches. Cook these gently for a few minutes until translucent and add the two garlic cloves, crushed under the side of a heavy knife, skinned but left whole. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and mix together in the pan, reducing everything a little until combined.
Roughly shred the greens and add to the pan along with the herbs and enough water to just cover. Bring to a scant boil and turn the heat right down. Simmer the vegetables until tender and season the broth well.
Start to toast your bread, preferably from a loaf a day or two old, and crack your eggs carefully into the simmering soup. Poach for 3-4 minutes. Once the toast is done put a slice in each bowl, drizzle with rich, fruity olive oil and ladle over the broth. There should be just enough liquid to soak into the bread, leaving the bowl more or less dry. Pile on the greens and finish with the egg. Lemon juice & Parmesan.