After a marathon three weeks of eating and the immense pleasure of three peking ducks in as many days, I was foggy, fat(ter) and oddly enough, lacking appetite. It was a relief to fill the fridge with fresh food from Coventry Markets and it was with a glad heart I got back to home cooking.
This minestrone is my half hearted attempt at a detox. Besides taking care of that pesky celery which refused to fit in the fridge, minestrone feels good to eat. Though it looks like an ideal destination for wilted old veggies, I think like most soups, a minestrone benefits from the freshest ingredients. Fresh carrots add bite and cubes of squeaky zucchini retain their firm texture in the tomato soup. One old thing you should definitely throw in is a parmesan rind, which after releasing all its cheesy flavour and umami becomes a wiggly, gelatinous strip.
Once that’s done, the soup is ready for its final flourish. Drop in some small pasta – risoni or even better, those tiny gear shaped pasta – and the bulk of the vegetables. Five minutes over the heat and scoop it into a bowl, drizzle over the best extra virgin olive oil and a good grating of parmesan. The delicious detox is ready to begin.
3 tbsp olive oil
200 gm speck, diced
1 small leek, quartered and finely sliced
1 small carrot, finely diced
3 sticks celery, finely diced
1 brown onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, sliced
200g tin diced tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock
1 parmesan rind (if you have it)
¼ cup risoni (any small pasta will do)
200 gm tin cannellini beans, drained
6 yellow squash, finely diced
2 sticks celery, sliced
1 green zucchini, finely diced
Parmesan cheese, to serve
Place a 4L saucepan over low-medium heat and drizzle in the olive oil in. Add the speck, leek, carrot, celery, onion and garlic. It looks like a lot but will shrink down to a flavoursome base. Gently cook and turn regularly until the leek has softened.
Add the tin of diced tomatoes. Fill the empty tin with water, swirl to loosen any stubborn puree and empty into the pot. Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. At this point, you can add in more water for a soupier soup. Keep in mind the beans and risoni will thicken the soup slightly.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and drop in that old parmesan rind. Let it simmer, you can walk away for a good hour. If short on time, just continue on – it’s soup, not a Nobel prize.
Fish out the now wobbly parmesan rind.
Add in the risoni and cannellini beans. Once half the risoni’s cooking time is up, add the rest of the vegetables – the squash, remaining celery, zucchini. Simmer until the risoni is cooked.
Scoop into your favourite soup bowl, drizzle in your best extra virgin olive oil, add some pepper and grate over lots of parmesan cheese. I love this soup with hunks of baguette.
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