After a weekend heavy on entertaining, wine and cheese, L and I both felt the need for a simple meal. We always have all the ingredients in the fridge and cupboard for a basic minestone. Three bowls of this and at least 3 of our recommended five-a-day later, our desires were completely fulfilled and our bodies refuelled in the most healthy way I know.
Minestrone is one of the most fundemental dishes in Italian cooking, yet so easy to get wrong. For me, simplicity is key - the best quality ingredients you can afford and not too many of them. I want to taste each vegetable in each spoon. The most important thing however, is the stock you add to the soup. It's got to be vegetable stock and it has to be absolutely exceptional. Marigold Swiss vegetable bouillon vegan stock powder - the reduced salt version, is the stock of choice in this house. My secret ingredient? A small bay leaf and a tiny bunch of sage freshly picked to boost all the flavours and provide their own distinct scent.
Oh, and another thing. Although I have always suspected that I go to sleep thinking about food, we had confirmation of this the evening after we ate this. M woke up unhappily in the night and we decided to bring her into bed with us. She refused to settle and in my dreamy state I mumbled to L:
'Would you please go and get her minestrone?'
'Go and get her tomato.'
'Her bottle. I think she'd like some milk...... Oh dear, I think I need to go back to sleep.'
And I rolled over, bringing M closer to my chest.
Sure enough, when L returned, M and I were fast asleep in each others arms. No need for a bottle.
Of milk, tomato or minestrone.
3tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
2 medium potatoes
2 medium carrots
8 outer leaves savoy cabbage
1 410g tin haricot beans, drained
150g frozen french beans
2l hot vegetable stock
1 small bay leaf
1 small branch sage - about 3 leaves
salt and pepper to season
Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and roughly chop the onion. Fry until transparent, stirring frequently.
Slice the garlic cloves into pieces 2mm thick and add to the onions. Fry for a further three minutes.
Peel the potatoes and carrots and chop into 1cm cubes. Add both to the onions and stir to coat in the oniony oil. Add the bay and sage and stir again.
Pour over the hot vegetable stock, stir and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10minutes until the vegetables are beginning to soften.
In the meantime, chop the courgettes into 1cm cubes.
Remove and discard the tough stalks from the cabbage leaves and chop the leaves into pieces no large than 2cm.
Add the courgette, cabbage, haricot and french beans and cook for a further 5 minutes until all the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper.
Leave the soup to rest for five - ten minutes before you serve it so that it is warm, rather than hot and all the flavours have had one final chance to mingle.