Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Minestrone - hot vegetable soup on a cold day

  • A bunch of fresh vegetables chopped up small along with some spaghetti, cooked in a tomato broth, and topped off with parmesan or the chees e of your choice. Yep, it’s a hot recipe for a cold day. It is vegan, if you leave the cheese off.

Minestra di verdure is vegetable soup in Italian. I got the recipe from a friend at school, but it is the same as many soups I’ve eaten in Italy. This version is pure veg, but people use meat stock, and sometimes include beans or bacon. On the basis that this is a pot luck soup, you include any vegetables you have to hand. My most recent version included courgettes, instead of potatoes.

Don’t bother with this soup unless you like chopping veg.

1 large onion
2 celery stalks
2 garlic cloves
2 carrots
2 potatoes
1 bay leaf
pinch of thyme
handful of fresh parsley
1 can chopped tomatoes
100g dry spaghetti (a small bunch)
salt and pepper and 2tbsp olive oil

  • Chop all the vegetables and garlic into small pieces, I like them to be about 1cm cubes
  • Fry gently a couple of spoonfuls of oil  using a heavy bottomed pan for a couple of minutes stirring all the time
  • Add enough water to cover all the vegetables and add thyme parsley and bay leaf, bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper
  • Bring back to the boil and simmer for a few more minutes
  • Break the spaghetti into the cooking soup – I like short lengths, about 5cm and cook for about 11 minutes, or until the spaghetti is cooked
  • Serve with grated parmesan and a piece of buttered toast.

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Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Persian vegetable stew

Sweet and slightly soured vegetable stew with a lovely golden colour from the turmeric and a sharp sweetness topped by dried limes.

50g ghee (clarified butter)
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
½ tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp tomato paste
20g coriander
10g tarragon
10g dill
1kg waxy potatoes, peeled and chopped into 4cm chunks
1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into 4cm chunks
3 dried limes, pierced 2-3 times
1 whole green chilli, slit on one side from stem to tip
5 medium tomatoes, quartered
150g spinach leaves
15g barberries 
1l water

300g Greek yoghurt (optional)

Serves six.


Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. 
(if you are preparing ahead, do this 25 minutes before you want to serve the stew)

  • Put a large casserole dish on medium heat and sauté the butter, onion, turmeric and cumin for 10 minutes. 
  • Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for two minutes. 
  • Tie all the herbs into a bunch and add to the pot with the potatoes, squash, limes, chilli, a teaspoon and a half of salt and a litre of water. 
  • Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and boil gently for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are semi-cooked. 

- You can prepare the stew ahead up to this point -

  • Stir through the tomatoes, spinach and barberries, crushing the limes gently as you do so, to release some of the juices inside.
  • Transfer to a large roasting tray and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a little and the vegetables are soft. 
  • Remove from the oven and leave to sit for five minutes before serving

Serve with yoghurt if you like, and rice.