Sunday, 4 December 2011

Rags or Riches?

Un Minestrone Siciliano
A Sicilian Vegetable Pasta Soup

This evenings supper, was a simple but delicious soup, like the ones my mother used to make when I was a child- and still does today of course! But making it reminds me of my childhood and there is always a lot of comfort in that- which made this a perfect bowl of real comfort food. Being one of 9 children, we often ate simple dishes like this- and I hasten to add, that we may not have been too thrilled at the time! But with a more mature palate and a different appreciation of food, I have a deep love for this kind of dish. Only my mother would never have spiced it up as much as I do!

Basically with minestrone, there are no rules as far as the ingredients are concerned- you use what you have available, what is in season- or just simply what you like best! I always loved the combination of lentils, potatoes, chick peas and greens. The boil down to make a lovely rich and "honest" good flavor- just like food must have been in the old days. This is indeed a poor peoples recipe- but no less delicious for that!

I started off by trimming the kale leaves from the stems, chopping the leaf into bite-sized pieces and slicing the stems thinly. Traditionally, this kind of soup would boil away for ages, but in my version, I like to try to reduce the cooking time as much as possible, so as to not cook all of the goodness out of the vegetables. This took 1 leaf of kale for 2 portions. Next- was 1 finely chopped carrot, 1 finely chopped spring onion, 1 handful of lentils and 1 of chick peas. I also added a small potato which I sliced coarsely- this lightly thickens the broth, along with the lentils and is also a nice different texture when eating.

I put all of these ingredients into saucepan together and reduced the heat to a slow simmer as soon as it reached boiling point. I seasoned it with salt and pepper, 1 crushed clove of garlic and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste. I added a bay leaf and a handful of finely chopped parsley, including the stalks, as well as a few finely chopped leaves of celery. These go to give the broth a more complex and rich flavor. I started off with only a little water in the pan, so that the vegetables cooked together more compactly. After around 20 minutes I added more water and as soon as it came up to the boil again, I added a handful of linguini that I snapped into short pieces.

You need to adjust the amount of broth as the cooking time advances, as a lot of broth does get absorbed by the ingredients as they cook and swell up- but all of those flavors are right there in that one saucepan and you are just a few steps away from enjoying them!

The amount of broth is a matter of taste- but as soon as the pasta is soft, you are ready to serve. Add some good extra virgin olive oil in the plate- not during cooking and either some freshly ground pepper- or as I did, some wonderful dried chili or paprika flakes. This was the smoked paprika that I like so much- it is a little milder than regular chili flakes with a mildly roasted flavor- perfect in combination to the rustic flavor of the soup. And what more can I say to all of that, other than "buon apetito!"

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