One of our walks took us along (and just off) the South Tyne Valley Trail which meanders through some beautiful countryside and we caught our first glimpse of some spring lambs - a sure sign that the winter is behind us and summer isn't too far away! Unfortunately, more often than not, Winter has a sting in its tail and I wouldn't be too surprised if we were hit with snow or ice once more - but let's hope not!
There's a few dishes that I love to eat at this time of year and I'd like to share one of them - my favourite recipe for Minestrone Soup. It's great at any time but there's something about the flavours (perhaps it's the tomato and basil) that reminds me of the lovely fresh food that we eat in summer and, because I don't usually feel like eating soup in July / August, I think it's just right for now when the days can be warm but the nights are still a bit on the chilly side.
This soup is packed full of goodness and is an excellent way of using up the tasty ham stock left over from making the ham and pease pudding recipe that appeared in an earlier blog. There's quite a bit of chopping involved but once it starts to cook it just requires the occasional stir.
Also, did I forget to say how absolutely delicious it is?
Satisfying Minestrone Soup
Notes: Cabbage is a traditional ingredient in Minestrone but I have suggested some vegetables that I like to use . Feel free to replace the courgette with cabbage instead. Also, if you've got a tin of beans in your cupboard (cannellini, red kidney, haricot or even butter beans) they can be added to the soup about 15 minutes before the end of cooking.
As with any soup, this is best made with good chicken or ham stock but ready made stock works really well too.
Pasta is usually added to Minestrone and I tend to use macaroni, however last time I made it I didn't have any macaroni so I used spaghetti that I snapped into short strands instead and it was great! So I would say any small pasta shape would work in this soup.
Serves 3-4 hearty portions
50g streaky bacon, de-rinded and finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
3 medium size carrots, finely chopped
Tin of chopped tomatoes
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 very large or 2 small leeks, washed and finely chopped
2 courgettes, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 litres stock (homemade if possible)
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried basil
75g macaroni or other small pasta
1tbsp tomato puree
salt and pepper
grated Parmesan to serve (optional)
1. Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan then add the bacon and cook for a minute or two before adding the onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes and garlic. Add some salt and pepper then cover and cook over a low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, allowing the vegetables to soften but not brown.
2. Pour in the stock and add the basil, simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
3. Add the leeks, courgette and macaroni, cover and simmer fo a further 30 minutes.
3. Stir in the tomato puree and cook for another 10 minutes.
4. Serve and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
My inspiration for this recipe came from 'Minestrone with Macaroni' from Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course.