|1 large onion|
|2 garlic cloves|
|2 handfuls of fresh peas|
|2 celery sticks|
|4 leaves of Savoy cabbage|
|2 large ripe tomatoes|
|1 medium potato (see Cook's Notes above)|
|200g cooked / canned borlotti beans (see Cook's notes)|
|100g / 3½oz / just under 1 USA cup risotto rice|
|1.5l / 2.7pints / 6½ USA cups vegetable stock (see Cook's Notes above)|
|Salt and pepper to taste (¼ teaspoon of each)|
Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic cloves
Peel and chop the carrots into small cubes.
Top and tail, wash and finely chop the celery sticks
Slice and chop the cabbage leaves
Peel and chop the potato into small cubes
Roughly chop the tomatoes, remove the central white pith near the stalk (see Cook's Notes)
The word minestrone comes from the Italian word "minestra" which means soup, the whole word translates to "big soup". Originally this was a peasant dish which involved cooking leftover vegetables in a broth. Over time fresh vegetables gradually crept into the ingredients. There really is no set recipe for minestrone so experiment with our vegetarian version using vegetables you like. The key is to use seasonal vegetables. Examples of other vegetables which can be used in this recipe include green beans, spinach, courgettes and broad beans.
We use borlotti beans in our minestrone soup but any firm bean, such as red kidney beans, can be used instead. It's best not to use soft beans, such as butter beans, because they tend to release starch into the soup thickening it up too much especially if the soup will be frozen.
Whatever vegetables are used they should be added to the onions in the order of how long they take to cook. For example in our recipe the carrots and celery take the longest to cook so they are added first and fried for several minutes, then the other vegetables.
One vegetable that dramatically affects the thickness of the soup if over-cooked is the potato. So make sure you only ad them 20 minutes or less before the soup is due to be served. Cooking them for longer will slowly thicken the broth.
At the heart of this soup is the vegetable stock and we recommend making your own. For full details on making stock click here. When we made the stock for this soup we used ingredients from the fridge which were near their sell by date. A couple of carrots, some celery, the outer leaves of the Savoy cabbage needed for this soup, two leeks and lots of herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme. Chop that lot up so that it fits into a large pan, season with salt and pepper, pour on 1.5 litres / 2.7 pints of water and simmer for an hour and a half.
When the stock is cooked, pour it through a sieve to clear it and you have delicious homemade stock. If you are short on vegetables, use what you have and add a vegetable stock cube.
All minestrone soups call for a topping of grated Parmesan cheese but unfortunately, real Parmesan cheese has animal based rennet in it. The solution is simple, use a British hard cheese which is suitable for vegetarians. Surprisingly, 90% of British cheese uses vegetarian rennet so check the label and you are almost sure to find it is suitable for vegetarians.
Recipe by David Marks.
Add the oil into the pan on a medium then add the chopped onions. Let them fry, stirring often, for 8 minutes. Now add the chopped carrots and celery and fry for 15 minutes.
Now add all the remaining vegetables and garlic but not the potatoes, borlotti beans or the risotto rice. Stir in well and let them fry for 5 minutes.