We like soup in our house. In fact that is an understatement: We love it! Not just because it makes a quick, easy to prepare supper and is relatively cheap (very important as we head towards the end of January and we’re all feeling the pinch in our pockets), but also because it is damn tasty!
Kids love soup, even when they declare that they hate vegetables, I like it because it is quick to make, low in fat and stodge (unless of course you pair it with some lovely crusty bread with butter), filling and warming on a cold dark winters evening.
One of our favourite soups is minestrone. An Italian staple it is a peasant dish at heart that can pretty much be made with whatever you have left over, plus some pasta, beans or meat.
We have one vegetarian in the family so I like to keep the soup meat free….and then add more stuff at the end.
Minestrone (the big soup)
1 large onion finely chopped
1 large stick of celery finely chopped
1 medium potato diced
2 medium carrots diced
1 medium leek finely chopped
2 or 3 decent sized cloves of garlic finely chopped or crushed
150 – 200g finely shredded green cabbage, spring cabbage or even the leaves from sprout tops. Use whichever you prefer or is available
a bouquet garni (made by tying together a bay leaf, sprig of thyme, couple of parsley stalks and a sprig of rosemary)
1 and a half to 2 litres of water or vegetable stock with 4 tablespoons of tomato puree dissolved in it
4 large tomatoes skinned and roughly chopped
about 50g soup pasta
finely chopped parsley
salt and black pepper
Pour a good glug of olive oil (2 tablespoons or so) into a large pan. Add the finely chopped onion and celery and sweat gently over a low heat without browning for about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the carrot, leek, potato and garlic and continue cooking for another 10 minutes until beginning to soften, but not turning brown.
Put the tomatoes into a bowl and cover with boiling water and leave until the skin begins to split. Remove and cool slightly before taking the skin off. Chop roughly. Add to the pan with the shredded cabbage, bouquet garni and stock mixture. Increase the heat a little and bring to a gentle simmer. Half cover with a lid and allow to cook for about 10 to 15 minutes.
After this time add the pasta. We used a soup pasta that looks like a tiny conchiglie shell (that conch shape) called conchigliette. You can buy it in most supermarkets or Italian delis, but any small quick cooking pasta will do…even macaroni if you are really stuck.
You could also add cooked beans at this time as well. Any kind of white bean is good in this soup (haricot, cannellini) and will add more texture and bulk. If you are using beans you could leave out the potato.
Leave to cook for a further 10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Add chopped fresh parsley and check the seasoning.
Serve with some really good bread and if you want to make the dish less frugal you can top with a trickle of truffle oil, or a good covering of parmesan…or even some fried cooking chorizo (which I did).