This hearty, chunky-style vegetable soup will satisfy even the biggest appetite. It’s the sort of soup to make on Friday before a week-end when the family will be coming and going, with everyone running to their own private timetable - but still expecting to be fed!
You can call it minestrone if you want, but in our family dictionary that is just a fancy word for a pretty basic soup. Of minestrone, food writer the great late MFK Fisher says, 'it is a thick unsophisticated soup, heart-warming and soul-satisfying, full of aromatic vegetables' for 'those who are tired or worried or cross or in debt or in a moderate amount of pain or in love or in robust health or …' Leave it in the pot throughout the weekend and reheat to boiling at meal times (as long as it re-boils it won’t need to go in the refrigerator). With each reheat, add a little more water, a handful of pasta or more vegetables, a bit of left-over this or that. The pot will seem bottomless and the soup will keep on evolving and improving.
BASIC HEARTY FARM-STYLE VEGETABLE SOUP (or MINESTRONE)
You will need a selection of vegetables and herbs in season. The recipe is only a guide but onion is the one non-negotiable essential item. However, to earn the title of “Hearty” I am sure there should be a minimum standard - I don’t think I would vote for a brew that has less than six vegetables, and some foodies certainly demand beans in minestrone.
Quick and easy
This recipe is a vegetarian version but, if you wish, definitely add a good big handful of diced bacon, salami, leftover roast meat or fresh raw chicken. I sometimes throw half a dozen chicken wings into the pot or a few pieces of veal shank (the osso bucco cut).
2 large onions
2 large carrots
2 - 4 sticks celery, with leaves
1 large red or green capsicum/bell pepper
2 large potatoes, scrubbed
1 - 2 cups green veg (peas, chopped beans, shredded silverbeet including all the silver bits)
½ teaspoon salt to start; freshly ground pepper
selection of fresh or dry herbs
1. Cut all vegetables into same-size bits - cubes of about 1 cm.
2. In large saucepan, fry onion with a few tablespoons olive oil until beginning to colour.
3. Add everything else; cover with water; bring to boil. Simmer until cooked, roughly 30 minutes but an hour is better.
Other things to use:
- Swede or turnip or parsnip; cauliflower or broccoli; sliced Brussels sprouts are very very good, or diced cabbage; pumpkin, squash, zucchini…
- Garlic, chilli, olives.
Fresh or dry bay leaves and sprigs of fresh rosemary are almost as essential as onion; and try some thyme, parsley, basil, chives... but don’t use mint and be sparing with coriander.
If using dry herbs, avoid Gran’s Aussie stand-by - those packet Mixed Herbs - or the soup will taste like chicken stuffing. Start with a pinch or two of whatever you have and add more after the first taste test.
* * *
FROGBLOG TIP: If using dry chickpeas, soak beforehand for 6 hours (see chickpeas). They will then take 30-40 minutes to cook in with the vegetables. With lentils, you will need to add 1 - 2 cups more water during the cooking.
Taste the emerging soup after 30 minutes; add more salt, chilli, pepper and herbs if needed.
Stir in ½ cup dry pasta ten minutes before serving or when reheating (and more water).
Add canned tomato, or jar of mild Mexican salsa or tomato-based pasta sauce. Or fresh tomatoes.
Most of all, have fun creating your soup and enjoy the outcome.
COUNTRY FROG RANT: There is ABSOLUTELY NO NEED or reason to add ready-made store-bought stock to a hearty-style soup. In the process of cooking the soup you are making your own beautiful stock. Any recipe that tells you to add extra is unthinkingly wasting your money or has been devised by a 'TV' cook/chef who is sponsored by the company which makes the stock.
Next: One of Town Frog’s 'urban' soups - something more 21st century than the ancient Mediterranean Minestrone.
Written and compiled by two frogs.