winter minestrone

so, having fallen in love with chunky (veggie) soups as a result of the ribollita recipe i’ve been making on an almost weekly basis for the past month or so, i’m trying other options.

i started with minestrone, choosing the river café recipe for a winter minestrone, which uses wintery greens (chard and cavolo nero) plus the woodier herbs such as sage, thyme and rosemary.

the recipe is, as usual for river café, completely bonkers and only any use as a rough guide – it calls for a bulb of garlic, and leaves all the cloves whole, added with the stock rather than slow-fried with the onion and carrot to mellow the flavour; plus there is an insane 2kg of greens for 700ml of stock. having looked at various blogs and comments on the recipe i chopped and fried the garlic to mellow it and cut back the greens to 400g.

the resulting dish is lighter than the ribollita (just using beans for bulk, rather than beans, potatoes and pasta) and has a ”greener” flavour. best of all it’s a great way to use up chard if, like me, you can’t bear to eat it any other way but buy it anyway, because of the pretty rainbow-coloured stems!

winter minestrone* (serves 4)

1 tablespoon of olive oil

2 medium carrots, roughly chopped

1 large red onion, roughly chopped

1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and roughly chopped

200g chopped tomatoes (tinned or fresh)

200g swiss chard, leaves shredded and stalks roughly chopped

a good handful of parsley , finely chopped

200g cavolo nero , stalks removed, leaves shredded (or savoy cabbage)

400g can cannellini beans , drained and rinsed

700ml stock

a few sprigs of winter herbs such as thyme, rosemary or sage, chopped

extra-virgin olive oil , for drizzling

heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and slowly fry the carrot and onion until they soft and start to brown (this will take about 20 minutes - the slow cooking gives the dish a lovely flavour). add the garlic, chard stalks and half the parsley, and stir to prevent sticking. cook for a few minutes, until you can smell the garlic, then stir in the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes or until reduced.

add half the swiss chard leaves, half the cavolo nero, three-quarters of the beans, and the boiling stock. bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. simmer for 30 minutes. pour in more stock if needed - don't add too much - it should be thick. add the remaining swiss chard and cavolo nero and blanch briefly so they remain green and crisp. season when slightly cooled.

purée the remaining cannellini beans coarsely in a blender with some of the cooking liquid. add to the soup - it should be very green. stir in the herbs and serve hot a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

*based on a river café recipe