Maybe it's just me, and I realise being lacklustre isn't the best way to push a recipe, but the one negative about this soup is...with all that good-for-you worthiness and vegetables-only content it's not necessarily the most wildly exciting thing to be eating. If you're up for it, some fresh, buttery scones would be fantastic alongside, or at the least some (also buttered) toast.
However while you wouldn't think there'd be much to it (for example, because I told you) it's delicious and sustaining and comforting and, as I said, pretty cheap too. All good things now, and indeed at any time. And while I love stirring chilli and spices into food, what could be seen as holding this soup back is also part of its charm - the simplicity of flavour. Much of it comes from the alchemy of stirring onions over heat and simmering the sweet, starchy parsnips and kumara. They lift it from being a bowl of aimlessly boiled vegetables into something pretty superb.
Use whatever related vegetables you have: a combination of leeks, other kumara varieties, potato, frozen peas as well as canned beans/chickpeas/lentils would all work here.
4 spindly or 1 fat parsnip
1/2 a big orange kumara
Handful of small pasta like risoni or the bashed up remains of a packet of pasta or a few tablespoons long grain white rice.
Olive oil, salt and pepper. If you don't have olive oil, use butter instead.
Slice the onion up thin. Heat the oil in a wide pan, and stir the onion slices in it over a gentle till properly cooked and browned slightly but not blackened. Grind in some salt. Chop all the rest of your vegetables into small chunks, add them to the hot pan and stir for about five minutes till they've started to become tender and have gained some colour.
Pour over enough water to come an inch above the vegetables, bring to a good bubbling simmer and tip in the pasta (or rice). Allow to simmer gently for another ten minutes or so, until the pasta is cooked through.
At this point you can leave it covered until you need to reheat and eat it - if this is any longer than a couple of hours then put it in the fridge.
As I said, one of the cool things about this minestrone is that you can add what you like to it depending on what you have. Its simplicity is great, but don't let that stop you. Tomatoes. Canned beans. Finely chopped cabbage. Barley. Carrots. Pesto. Chilli sauce. Whatever you've got, this minestrone can probably accommodate it. It's magic as is though, the pasta grains swelling up and absorbing the liquid flavoured by its vegetable inhabitants, the sweetness of the starchier ingredients stared down by the bolder onion and zucchini.
Meals like this are our thing at the moment. I'm away this weekend and next weekend for work and then the weekend after that, Tim and I take off on our Massive Exciting Overseas Trip so as well as wanting to eat things that don't cost much, it's good to get through whatever's in the fridge. That said, I did run into Millie Mirepoix at the supermarket today and was convinced (okay, convinced myself, but she was an enabler) to buy a couple of gorgeous, perfumed quinces, which will need some fairy immediate attention.
I haven't even thought that much about what I'll do with this blog while I'm away - I think I'll try to get a post done as close to our leaving time as possible and then just leave it as is, hoping for the best that you'll all be there when I get back. As Christine Ebersole as Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale in Grey Gardens said, "when violets return in Spring, will you?" I'm not sure it's all that relevant really considering New Zealand'll be heading towards winter come April, but this song makes me buckle at the knees with its beauty and I just like a chance to link to it semi-gratuitously.
Title via: Together, Wherever from the always quotable, always listenable Gypsy, a musical I would really love to see for real one day, till then making do with a couple of different cast recordings and my DVD of Bette Midler's made for TV movie version of it. I also found this amazing clip of Liza and Judy singing an abridged version of this song...I love you youtube.
Till Tomorrow by David Dallas, I love this new video of his by Special Problems with its constantly moving, animated wandering hotdog and mustachioed donut visuals. Plus the bouncing, offbeat rhyming calling to mind, in a really good way, Can I Kick It?
Thunder On The Mountain by Wanda Jackson. Another of her tracks that sound both fresh and ancient, with a fast beat, full-on horns, and Jackson's deliciously roguish voice.
Next time: either way probably something in a jar because I've still got to make that mango chutney, plus I'm halfway through making this recipe for dried fig and rhubarb jam from my Aunt Daisy cookbook.