There's a lot to love about Italian food, and undoubtedly one of those things is their commitment to carbs. It was Italians after all who invented panzanella, i.e. bread salad, and for this I salute them every summer. Many Italian dishes involve a combination of carbs - pizza Bianca with thin slices of potato, or pasta mollicata which is spaghetti with fried breadcrumbs,
Minestrone traditionally involves almost every form of carb imaginable - pasta, beans, potato and bread - and that might be why it's such a crowd pleaser. It's also a dish that's easily tailored to suit individual tastes and needs. It’s simple, for instance to keep it vegetarian or add meat, and you can swap out the macaroni for gluten free fusilli if needed. I omit potato in this recipe, and add a couple of less traditional touches like parmesan rind and herb oil. I’m sure that with some tinkering, you too can personalise it for yourself.
Why use dried beans instead of canned?
If you’re short on time or forget to soak dried beans in advance (see next paragraph about prepping extra!), you can of course use canned beans. You’ll need 2 cans for this recipe. But there are benefits to using dried. Generally, dried beans deliver a better texture and flavour than canned. You can control the seasoning and saltiness as well as making sure they aren’t overcooked and mushy. Also, they’re cheaper, lighter to lug home and take up less pantry space.
Finally, here’s a tip that we’ve talked about in previous recipes: soak and cook double the amount of cannellini beans required, then freeze them in a well-sealed bag or container. I freeze mine in a ziplock bag in a thin brick shape which makes it both easier to fit in the freezer and makes it a cinch to break apart for a speedier defrosting. Having precooked beans in the freezer is the handiest thing, and Future You will be so thankful.
We love this minestrone. I hope you enjoy making it and eating it as much as our family does!
We have my 14yo to thank for this recipe. Whilst "Mum, can we try making gazpacho this weekend" is not the usual thing to be uttered by a teenager, it's right on brand for Sam. He's a history and geography buff, and lately he's been delving into Spain and, specifically, the southern region of Andalusia.
Gazpacho is a chilled tomato soup which is a popular staple in the southern parts of Spain. It's a thin soup made with tomatoes, capsicum and cucumber.
Knowing my kid's passionate aversion to capsicum I suggested we make Salmorejo instead. Like its cousin, Gazpacho, Salmorejo is also Andalusian, tomato based, served chilled & just as refreshing on a hot day.
While some Salmorejo recipes call for the use of fresh tomatoes, I was keen to put our new bottled passata to the test. The end result was wildly successful - a bright, vibrant meal that had us scraping our bowls.
Try it on a hot day - I think Sydney has quite a few of those up its sleeve before giving way to Autumn. We assure you'll be delighted with the cooling, nourishing eating experience that Salmorejo delivers.
We're on a bit of a legume jaunt at Village Wholefoods at the moment. Last month I was looking to bring a touch of pizazz to the humble lentil, and the result was our Lemony Lentil Soup. This time we are taking you for a closer look at Black Turtle Beans, aka black beans.
What I've done for this recipe is bring together an aromatic tomato soup with plump and flavoursome black beans. A cosy, nutritious bowl of goodness with all the yummy add-ons that make it feel festive.
A little note about the addition of cocoa: much like unsweetened cocoa powder is used inTex-Mex dishes like chilli con carne, and traditional Mexican dishes - most famously in mole, a velvety sauce comprised of roasted chillies, spices, nuts and tomatoes, for which either cocoa powder or shavings of bitter dark chocolate can be used. I use it in this tortilla soup to bring a depth of flavour and an earthy warmth that balances the sharper elements of the dish. Try it, you won't look back!
Serve this crowd pleaser with a bounty of accompaniments so everyone can add their own toppings as desired.
150g (about a cup) dried black turtle beans, rinsed briefly under tap
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped and divided into 2 piles
4 garlic cloves - 2 left whole, 2 minced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
½ bunch fresh coriander - wash and finely chop the stems, then roughly chopped the leaves. Set them aside to use separately.
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp tomato paste or dried tomato powder
¼ tsp ground black pepper
400 g canned diced tomatoes
1 tsp vegetable stock powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 limes - 1 zested and juiced, 1 lime cut into wedges to serve
OPTIONAL BUT HIGHLY RECOMMENDED GARNISHES
3 tbsp sour cream or natural yoghurt
Corn chips or tortilla chips to serve, homemade or store bought
Place beans in a large pot along with about ¼ of the chopped onion, 1 tsp salt and the 2 whole garlic cloves. Add about 2 litres of water. Cover with lid and bring to boil. Turn down heat and simmer gently for approx 1 hour. Check them at 15 min intervals from the 45 min mark The beans should be soft but not mushy.
Remove from heat, drain beans and set them aside. There will be bits of onion and garlic mixed in with the cooked beans - leave them with the beans, as we'll be throwing them all in the pot again shortly.
Put your pot back on the stove and set heat to medium-low. Add oil and onion, saute for about 5 mins or until translucent and soft. Add finely chopped coriander root, carrot and minced garlic, saute for 1 min. Now add cocoa, cumin, dried coriander, chilli powder and smoked paprika, saute for another minute.
Add the reserved drained turtle beans, tinned tomatoes, water, stock powder, tomato paste or powder, salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer, replace the lid and simmer for 15 mins.
Turn off the heat. With a stick blender, roughly blend the soup (or blend it in a food processor in batches). You don't want it to be silky smooth, just partially blended.
To serve: ladle into bowls, then top with a dollop of Greek yoghurt or sour cream, a few tortilla chips, a wedge of lime and some chopped coriander.
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Serve with your favourite chilli sauce or salsa. You could even add a little chimichurri, sliced jalapeños or diced avocado.
Feel like a stew rather than a soup? Just add ½ cup quinoa at the same time as you add the tomatoes, water, cooked beans etc. You could also use rice in the same way.
Greater than the sum of its simple parts, this vegan-friendly, kid-friendly, quick as a flash to make soup may well become a staple for your midweek dinner or weekend lunch.
I use red lentils as they're quick to prepare for starters: no soaking, and they cook in just 10 minutes making them a favourite with many of our customers. Another factor in their popularity is flavour - they're milder and sweeter than other varieties of lentils, making them suitable to a broader palate.
The addition of garlic, turmeric and ginger makes this a practically weaponised bowl of goodness as we head into the colder months, while the lemon and gremolata give it an unexpected twist and a fresh, light sparkle for your taste buds.
A customer came in last week for split green peas. With Sydney having the coldest weather for 37 years, she said it was the perfect time to make her grandmother Val's pea and ham soup, beloved and treasured by her family as much as Val herself is. I asked her for the recipe, and said I would love to share it in our newsletter. She said Val would be utterly delighted to see her recipe being shared and enjoyed by others.
So here it is. I've included directions for both stove top and slow cooker.