Minestrone Mash-Up

Winter Minestrone with Barley and Beans

This weekend I have something to prove, namely that this blog is regularly updated. The older offspring was lonely and sad in his temporary accommodation so the spouse and I phoned him. During our conversation he mentioned that my blog was more regular than my spouse's, which led to my decision to make soup sooner rather than later. I chose a book given to me by my brother-in-law "Tod" and his wife "Sal" a couple of years ago: the Riverford Farm Cook Book by Guy Watson and Jane Baxter. The spouse, younger offspring and I were staying with them and they had a glut of courgettes, which they had cooked using various methods. On leafing through the book I came across a recipe for chocolate and courgette cake. I baked it for them: you couldn't taste the courgette at all, smothered as it was by the cocoa. I digress. Back to the minestrone.

The recipe in the Riverford book lists leek, celery, carrots, turnips, garlic, dried oregano, tomatoes, canned beans (borlotti, haricot or cannellini), farro or barley, and cavolo nero or kale. The recipe in The Soup Book lists similar ingredients but fewer of them: no leek, no turnip, parsley instead of oregano, and pasta instead of farro or barley. A recipe in an old book The Gourmet's Guide to Italian Cooking by Sonia Allison and Ulrike Bielfeldt (1973) is probably closer to the Riverford book in that it includes cabbage among its ingredients. It also allows for turnip, marrow, aubergine, parsnip, swede, peas and green beans, depending on what's in season.

Minestrone in progress before the kale was added
Minestrone ready to eat
As you might expect, preparing all those vegetables takes time and effort. As the younger offspring had shown some interest in cooking earlier this week, I had planned to get him to help me with the peeling, slicing and chopping. It was not to be. The allure of friends and hanging out in a famous shopping centre proved too much for him to resist. The spouse stepped into the breach and did the heavy-duty prep work for me. All I had to do was remove the hard stalks from the kale and chop the leaves finely. I did this while the onion, leek, celery, carrot and turnip were sweating away in the dekshee. Thirty minutes later I added the garlic and oregano and left the lot for two more minutes. Next in were the tomatoes and beans, and the mixture was left simmering for another thirty minutes. The final stage involved the addition of the shredded kale. By this time there was very little liquid in the mixture and I wondered how I was going to fit all the kale in. Somehow I did and the final fifteen minutes of cooking reduced the bulk of the soup.

Then it was time to dish up. Much to my surprise the younger offspring was quite enthusiastic about the soup, kale notwithstanding. The three of us ate our very thick minestrone sprinkled with grated Parmesan and with sour-dough bread on the side. Verdict on the soup: very good, filling and substantial. Verdict on the Riverford recipe: interesting; fewer specific instructions and advice in comparison with The Soup Book (no timing or freezing guidelines).

End Bee

A couple of bee references cropped up during the week. I heard the song Bee's Wing by Richard Thompson for the first time. Interestingly, Thompson's website is called BeesWeb.
Finally, I was at meeting last Friday and the group leader used bees to illustrate communication and networking.

So, that's it for now. I hope the older offspring reads this and is comforted.



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