Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Warm and hearty winter soup: minestrone

I have a secret to share. I’m not sure why I’ve kept this to myself for so long. It is the ultimate recipe for warm and hearty minestrone soup.

Believe-it-or-not, I’ve been making this one minestrone soup recipe since college. And that, friends, was a long time ago, but we won’t get into that.

The recipe comes from my friend Alison, and before that, her dad. Well, actually it comes straight out of Len Deighton’s Cookstrip Cook Book. I have a photocopy of the recipe that is many, many years old, and that I keep in a recipe book with plastic sleeves that I use for hand-written recipes that pre-date the days of electronic bookmarking.

Because Wikipedia seemingly has information on everything, I was able to learn a little bit about Len Deighton. Not only is Len Deighton a novelist, but also, among other things, he is an illustrator and wrote and illustrated a weekly cooking comic strip in London's The Observer newspaper called “Len Deighton's Cookstrip.” He also wrote and illustrated a series of cookbooks.

What’s great about this recipe is it’s straightforward and unfussy. It’s a bit of a choose your own adventure: there are basic ingredients which form the basis of the soup but you can “add on” whatever you would like. As such, you can have a slightly different soup every time – and it’s always wonderful, flavorful and hearty.

I love sweet corn in mine. I always use a large can of crushed tomatoes (slightly higher in quantity than the weight suggested in the recipe) in place of fresh, as it’s simpler and easier to get high quality canned tomatoes year round. This last time, I added cubes of parsnip which were nice. Give it a try!

Minestrone (from Len Deighton's Cookstrip Cook Book)

To prepare ahead:

Soak overnight, 1/4 lb dried white beans, strain and then cook until tender (or use canned equivalent)
Prepare some light stock from veal, chicken or beef (use meat extract or tinned consommé if you must)

1 Tbs chopped parsley (plus extra for garnish)
2 large onions (or 1 onion + white part of 1 leek)
1 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 cup green beans
1/2 cup celery
thyme, salt, pepper, basil
2 cloves crushed garlic
5 tablespoons olive oil
Some tiny pasta
3/4 lb tomatoes
1 cup peas
A pinch of sugar
6.5 cups stock
Parmesan for serving

Optional extras:
Potato, turnip, tomato purée, sweet corn (tinned will do)

Chop all ingredients small

Stir gently over low heat for five minutes: parsley, 2 large onions (or 1 onion and white part of one leek), cabbage, green beans, celery, thyme, salt, pepper, basil, garlic, olive oil

Add stock, tomatoes, peas, sugar and simmer 45 minutes

Add the cooked beans and some tiny pasta (CC note: the pasta will puff up significantly after cooked, use very small pasta). Cooked 'till pasta is done (15 mins?)

Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Pass lots of grated parmesan cheese.


kate said...

i love love love minestrone soup. my favorite thing to do is make a batch of basil pesto and swirl a spoonful (or 2) of that in right before devouring!

: )


Anonymous said...

There are so many versions of this and I like the simplicity of your minestrone. Nicely done Sabra.

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

These are some beautiful photos... that blue... I love it! Great job!

Madam Chow said...

The colors are fantastic! Great photos!

Pille said...

great photos!
I made minestrone for dinner on Tuesday, and we'll have leftovers tonight. Slightly different ingredients in mine, however - cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, celery sticks. Very nice, however :)

Madam Chow said...

I've passed along an award to you! Love your blog!

Anonymous said...

My brother, dad and I all make this recipe, founded on Len's original. No two soups are the same. I like adding canned dark kidney beans at the end and have even added chopped spinach for a twist. This soup eats like a meal.

Anonymous said...

Your soup looks delicious and your photos are really beautiful.

Anonymous said...

looks wonderful

great photography

Simones Kitchen said...

This looks amazing! I actually did some soupshots today as well but they look horribly boring next to yours. But then I used canned soup, as it was my first soup attempt and didn't want to start right away with freshly made soup! I might try your recipe as the soup looks delicious!

Peabody said...

Looks nice and hearty!

Anonymous said...

I know you said this is a wintry soup, but your images make me think of summer! Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I'm so in love with this post!! Your photos are lovely and the minestrone is so colorful!!

Sabra said...

Thanks all - so glad you enjoyed this post.

Nikkipolani: that's true: the colors are spring-like. A secret: I blanched (and shocked) the vegetables in this version so the colors would pop.
Pille: I"m always surprised this does not contain carrot. Yours sounds nice too.
Kate: I love the idea of basil pesto:
Thanks madam chow!
Hi Peabody!
Thanks Robin, Aran, Junglefrog, Peter!

Annemarie said...

Ah, what a perfect winter soup. You can also swap in different winter veg you have sitting around in your cupboard and not have the soup suffer for it.

Indonesia Eats said...

I love your pictures. I usually see your pictures through flickr food photography club.

Sunshinemom said...

I made a minestrone last week but my pictures seem so drab now! I guess I should make it again if I want to post:). We don't get parsnips here so I am wondering how that tastes. Looks delicious!

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