This is a Tuscan soup with wonderful earthy flavours. I like to add the pigeon breasts on top since it is one of my favourite meats and complements the soup wonderfully. You might want to use a knife and fork for this one.
3 tsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
100g/3oz pancetta, cut into little sticks
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 ribs of celery, trimmed, and finely chopped
1 leek, cleaned, trimmed and finely chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tsp fresh, finely chopped rosemary
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
11/2 litres/2 pints chicken stock
400g/14oz tin of pinto, cannellini or navy beans with liquid
1 head of cavolo nero, leaves only, chopped
6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and quartered
1 pigeon breast per person
1 slice of ciabatta per person, toasted
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pot and fry the pancetta until it browns slightly and the fat runs out. Sling in another tablespoon of oil and dollop in the butter.
Add the onion, carrots, celery and leek and gently fry for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. Stir in the garlic, rosemary and chilli and cook for a couple of minutes. Pour in the stock and beans and stir in the cavolo nero and tomatoes. Bring to the boil and season to taste. Boil gently for 30 minutes.
Ladle out three spoonfuls of the soup and blend to a purée, then return to the pot. Top the soup up with a little water if it looks dry. Towards the end of the cooking time, make the toast.
Season the pigeon breasts and fry in the remaining oil for about four minutes on each side, or until browned on the outside but still a lttle pink inside. Remove to a board and leave to sit for about five minutes, then cut into 1cm/half-inch-thick slices.
Ladle the soup into bowls, lay a slice of toast on top and place a pigeon breast on the toast. Sprinkle over a few thyme leaves, drizzle with oil and serve.