What is it about soup that makes it so well-suited to winter? We have two theories about why it is difficult to go past a good soup this season:
1. Soup has a uniformly warm temperature, unlike, say fish and chips. This means that every part of your mouth and stomach that it touches will feel warm and comfortable when you eat it.
2. Most people have fond childhood memories of Mum serving a steaming bowl or mug of soup on a cold winter’s day. These warm and fuzzy memories are re-kindled every time we breathe in the aroma of freshly-made soup, especially when a chill is in the air.
Soup for the Ages
Our favourite winter warmer is traditional Minestrone Soup, made with fresh ingredients and eaten on the same day it is made. The name “Minestrone” is Old Italian meaning “that which is served”. The actual origin of Minestrone Soup is lost in time, but some historians trace it to the people who lived in the region of modern-day Italy even before the Roman Republic was established. The recipe changed constantly as new vegetables and meats were introduced, most notably tomatoes in the 16th century. Just about the only thing that remained constant through the thousands of years that people made the soup was its name!
Even today, there is no clear agreement as to what exactly should be used to make Minestrone Soup, or how to cook it. You will find people who swear that it should not contain any meat, and others who insist that it is not Minestrone if you don’t see chunks of beef on your spoon. And let’s not even get started on the beans…
These days, people seem to agree that Minestrone is a thick, chunky vegetable soup which has been richly-flavoured with tomatoes. It is usually served in hearty portions intended as a meal on its own, often complemented with fresh bread or grated cheese. Our recipe is one of the more traditional variations made in modern-day Rome, it serves 8 hungry people and contains 53 calories per 100g.
2 tablespoons olive oil
⅔ cup diced onion
½ cup chopped celery
1 cup sliced leek, white & light green parts only
1½ cup diced carrots
1 cup finely chopped red cabbage
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 cup chopped green beans
1 cup chopped baby marrow or zucchini
⅔ cup sliced red capsicum
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 can whole tomatoes
½ cup small pasta, e.g. macaroni
4 – 5 cups chicken stock
1 can cannellini or butter beans
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
1 cup spinach, chopped
How to cook:
Using a large pot, combine the olive oil, onion, celery, leek, carrots and cabbage. Cook for 15 minutes over medium low heat, occasionally stirring the vegetables.
Add the rest of the ingredients (except the spinach and pasta) and 4 cups of stock. Cover and cook at a gentle simmer for about 45 minutes. Taste and add more salt if desired. Add the spinach and pasta and cook for another 10 minutes. Check seasoning again. If too thick, add more chicken stock.
Congratulations, you have just made Minestrone Soup! Think about all of the millions of people over the ages who have sat down to enjoy the meal you are about to serve, and take your place in soup history.