Minestrone


Ingredients


3 litres chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
500 g fresh borlotti beans, shelled to yield 250 g (see note below) or 1 x 440 g can borlotti beans
250 g tomatoes, peeled and seeded
200 g carrots, peeled and cubed
1 celery stick, trimmed, coarsely chopped
1 large potato, peeled and diced
150 g rice (arborio if possible)
200 g white cabbage or cavolo nero (black cabbage), shredded
200 g green beans, cut into pieces, or fresh green peas
200 g small zucchini, washed, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley salt flakes chopped fresh basil or pesto, to serve freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling freshly ground black pepper, to serve


Method:

1. Bring the stock to the boil. add the borlotti beans and simmer for 15 minutesif using canned beans, drain and rinse under cold water and add with the hard vegetables.

2. Puree the tomatoes in a blender. add to the stock along with the carrots, celery, potato and rice, and simmer for 15 minutes. With 5 minutes of cooking time to go, add the cabbage, green beans or peas, zucchini and chopped tomato. When completely cooked, check the seasoning. it should be a thick soup; however, if it is too thick, add more stock or water.

3. serve in individual bowls with chopped basil or pesto. Pass around the parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, and pepper.

HINTS AND TIPS:

* You will needcutting board, cook’s knife, vegetable peeler, strainer, grater, blender, pot or large saucepan, wooden spoon, weight, liquid and spoon measures.


* Minestrone is a rustic country soup that should be served hot in winter and autumn, and cool or even chilled in summer. It may take time to prepare, but the results are worth itrecruit somebody to help you prepare the vegetables. There really is no set recipe for minestrone which makes the recipe just a guide. Although it’s usually made from vegetables in season, beans, stock and pasta or rice, the actual quantities do not have to be exact. This really is the best opportunity to cook a meal without a recipe and as long as the soup is packed with vegetables and has a thick consistency, minestrone can be very simple.


* If chicken stock is unavailable then simply use water, just be sure to season the soup properly at the end. As this recipe asks for chicken stockand as romantic as it may be to use homemade stock which will take several hoursstock cubes, powder or even premade packet stock will be fine. Be aware, however, that these ‘quick’ options can tend to be quite salty, so be careful before adding extra salt as the soup may need
only a little, if any at all.


* 150 g dried white beans may be substituted for the borlotti. Soak overnight and cook until tender. Add to the broth with the vegetables.


* Fresh tomatoes for the puree can easily be replaced with a small can of crushed tomatoes. The tomatoes added at the end of the cooking are still best to be kept fresh and chunky.


* Rice can be replaced with a pasta, like small shells or macaroni.


* Other ingredients can go into the soup like cauliflower, parsnip, turnip, swede or celeriac. Bacon rinds can be added in the beginning to add a smoky flavour to the soup.


* One option is to start the soup by frying  1 finely chopped onion and 2 crushed garlic cloves in 3 tablespoons olive oil before adding the chicken stock. Or pre-boil 2 Italian sausages for 15 minutes, cool and slice into rounds then brown in the olive oil before adding the onion and garlic; continue as per the recipe.


* Serve with fresh Italian bread, no butter.


* Rather than serving in individual bowls, place the pot in the middle of the table and as everyone sits at the table, ask how much they would like. This allows people to have only what they feel like as well as the option of asking for seconds. Have all the accompaniments around the pot of soup. Bread, parmesan, extra virgin olive oil and pesto are perfect to add to minestrone.

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