What I'm cooking and eating

Monday, 29 September 2014


I have a new cooker! This is a cause for wild excitement, as I have not had one before in all our married life - we started off with a new one (the cooker, the fridge and the bed were the only things we bought new, all those years ago when we were just starting out and money was tight), and had never replaced it. It was still serviceable, although the electronic starter had long since demised, the oven door was difficult to shut and the numbers had all rubbed off the knobs.
But we have bought a new one, and transformed our kitchen, as we had room to put the microwave above it, which has made more room than anybody would think possible.
Another cause for wild excitement is that the oven appears to make sponge cakes! My old oven never did - it made wonderful Dundee cakes, but ask it to cook a sponge and it would produce something like a flat biscuit.  I am still experimenting, as it appears that the oven is very cool and sponge cakes take about twice as long to cook as one would expect, but There Will Be Recipes when I am more confident!

Meanwhile, it seems early in the year for soup, but I have a bad cough, legacy of last week's cold, and wanted something comforting, and as I had seen "soup pasta" in Tesco, I reckoned minestrone was the way to go.  So I googled various recipes, mostly from the BBC Good Food website, looked at what was in the fridge, and came up with this:

Just under 1/2 cup cannellini beans
2 tbs olive oil
1 onion
1 leek
1 parsnip
3 small carrots
½ small swede
3-4 small new potatoes (ordinary ones are fine)
The end of a marrow (substitute a medium courgette)
A few mushrooms, sliced
1 chilli pepper
1 large clove garlic
Some basil leaves
Sloosh tomato paste
1 tin chopped tomatoes
About 75 g small pasta
Vegetable "Stock pot"
2 litres water

Soak the beans overnight, then bring to the boil in fresh water to which you may or may not have added a pinch of bicarbonate of soda.  Boil hard for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Or use a tin, but I personally prefer the texture of fresh-cooked ones.

Meanwhile chop the vegetables very finely.  You might want to use your food processor - I blitzed the chilli, garlic and basil together, then used the coarse grater on everything else except the potatoes, which I chipped, and the mushrooms, which I sliced.

Put the result into a heavy-based large casserole dish with 2 tbs olive oil, stir, cover, and leave to "sweat" on a low heat for 10-15 minutes.  Then add the tomato paste, tin of tomatoes, 2 litres of water, stock cube, seasonings of whatever takes your fancy (I had some Lebanese spice mix which wanted finished, so I added that), and finally the beans and pasta.

Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Serve with loads of grated cheese, ideally Parmesan but whatever....

This makes masses, but it will keep for several days in the fridge.


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