Nutrition expert Dr Federica Amati thinks you should make this warming Tuscan soup for lunch today - and we agree

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Soup season is upon us. Not only does it warm your cockles but it's a great way to pack a lot of vegetables into one meal. This hearty Tuscan ribollita with barley caught our eye in  Recipes for a Better Menopause , the hugely helpful new book from nutritional scientist Dr Federica Amati and award-winning chef, Jane Baxter. (We spoke to Dr Federica recently about how diet can affect your menopause age and symptoms.) 

Is it a soup or is it a stew? Well, both really so it'd work for either lunch or dinner. It's packed with nutrients, protein and essential vitamins, as are all the other delicious dishes in the book, which are tailored to help manage menopausal symptoms, such as brain fog, hot flushes and sleeplessness. It'd make a brilliant  Christmas present for the midlife woman in your life - or indeed a gift to self.

Hungry? Let's get into it. Over to you, Federica.

Tuscan ribollita with barley 

The wild oregano gives an authentic taste to this Tuscan soup but but use dried oregano instead if it's not available. Cooking the base vegetables for a very long time will add an extra depth of flavour to the end result. This soup is perfect when reheated, hence the name 're-boiled', and the added parmesan rind adds depth of flavour.

Serves 6 

3 tbsp olive oil 

1 onion, finely chopped 

2 celery sticks, finely chopped 

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped 

1 leek, finely chopped 

2 garlic cloves, crushed 

1 tsp dried wild oregano 

Pinch of chilli flakes 

1 parmesan rind

2 tbsp grated parmesan 

400g can chopped tomatoes 

100g pearl barley, rinsed 

750ml vegetable stock 

300g cavolo nero 

400g can borlotti beans, drained 

Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling 

Salt and pepper 


1. In a large pan, heat the olive oil and cook the onion, celery, carrots and leek over a low heat for about 15 minutes without browning. Stir in the garlic, oregano, chilli and Parmesan rind. Cook for a minute, then tip in the canned tomatoes and barley.

2. Season, stir and cook for 5 minutes before pouring in the stock. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the barley is just cooked.

3. In a large pan of salted water, blanch the cavolo nero leaves for a few minutes until just tender. Drain, refresh in cold water and squeeze out any excess water. Chop roughly. Add the cooked cavolo nero to the pan along with the borlotti beans and cook for 5 minutes. Remove about 250ml (9floz) of the soup and blend, then return it to the pan. At this point, add more stock if required, remove the cheese rind and season.

4. Serve with a good sprinkling of Parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Recipes for a Better Menopause (Kyle Books, £21.79) by Dr Federica Amati and Jane Baxter is out now