Farmers Market Minestrone
Although I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions, I have been making a concerted effort to visit the farmers market since the turn of the year. Last year may have seen me finally adapt to a more seasonal diet but I was often too busy (or lazy) to spin over to Naas on a Saturday morning. I am aware of course that as the theatre year picks up, it may happen again but for now, I’m thoroughly enjoying buying the best of the Winter season and cooking with locally grown, organic vegetables from the market.
I’ve already posted a couple of recipes for Minestrone Soup on this blog – a Summer and Winter version but it’s also important to remember that it’s a versatile soup that can be made with almost any vegetables. I always start with a base of either onions or leeks, add carrots, celery and herbs but every other slot is up for grabs. Best at the market last weekend were tender small leeks, cavolo nero, kale, turnip and romanesco cauliflower. Although I didn’t use all of these in the minestrone (only the chat n chew in Newbridge can pull off turnip in a soup), it really does take advantage of nature’s current bounty.
A note on the stock: I have specified a light stock here. A robust stock will mask the flavour of the vegetables which defeats the purpose of this soup. I used 750ml of homemade chicken stock diluted with 750ml of water. If you don’t have homemade stock, use plain water instead of using a stock cube – let the veggies shine!
4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2-3 small Leeks (150g trimmed weight, trimmed and sliced)
2 stalks of Celery (finely sliced)
2 medium Carrots (diced)
1 Romanesco Cauliflower (stalks finely chopped, head broken into florets)
1 sprig of Rosemary
pinch of Dried Chilli
1/2 tsp of Dried Oregano
1 clove of Garlic (finely sliced)
1.5L of light Chicken or Vegetable Stock or Water
1 Tin of Chopped Tomatoes
1/2 tsp of Sugar
125g Pasta (broken into small pieces)
100g Cavolo Nero (tough stalks removed, leaves shredded)
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Parmesan or Pecorino to serve
Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks, celery, carrot, finely chopped romanesco stalks, rosemary, dried chili and dried oregano. Season liberally with salt and pepper and cook, stirring regularly, until the vegetables are just beginning to soften, about 15 minutes.
Add the garlic and continue to cook for 2 minutes before adding the stock/water, tin of tomatoes and sugar. Bring to the boil, season and add the pasta. Bring back to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes before adding the cavolo nero. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove the sprig of rosemary, check for seasoning and serve with a grating of parmesan or pecorino.