I published this a couple of days ago as part of a much longer post. I thought it couldn’t hurt to expand on it a little (and correct typos). It’s also vegetarian, by the way. Not always a given with veg soup.
3 Sweetspear carrots, finely diced
3 Medium leeks, pale green and whites only, cleaned as needed, cut in half lengthways and shredded crossways
Half a swede, finely diced
2 Long, pointy, sweet red peppers, finely diced and added about half-way through
Cabbage – a good handful, shredded coarsely, then chopped
2 tablespoons Orzo pasta (the rice-grain-sized stuff, which swells nicely in soup).
Canned beans of some sort (got lots to choose from but probably pinto beans**)
2 500g packs of Napolina passata***
A scant teaspoon of sugar
2 Kallo organic vegetable stock cubes (I like these – they don’t dominate whatever you use them in, they just enhance it)
Black pepper to taste, ditto fine sea salt if needed
**What I wound up with was 2 cans of Napolina’s rather good Five Bean Salad, well rinsed
***This comes in cartons, and a surprising amount clings to the sides once you’ve poured it. So, pour it in and set the cartons aside. Half an hour later it will all have run to the bottom from where it can be rescued by adding a little hot water, giving it a swirl, and pouring it into the second carton, swirl, then into the pot.
The aim here is to get all the veggies, except the leeks, more or less the same size. No need to be obsessive about it, but the aim is to dip my spoon and get a bit of everything.
The bean salad is mostly suitably small beans, with just a few red kidney beans and a little sweetcorn. Unlike a lot of canned beans, Napolina are always perfectly cooked. In fact, it’s the only brand I buy these days. Not cheap, compared to supermarket own-brand, but worth every penny.
Spoonie note: Lightweight stainless steel casseroles are easier to handle than pans – two handles for a start – and for the clumsy among us (probably most of us as exhaustion bites), those handles don’t stick out to cause a hazard. And no idiotic glass lids to drop and break!
I used the 3litre one for this.
Pour a generous slick of olive oil in the bottom of the casserole (the pot, from now on), add the leeks, carrots and swede, stir, and sweat over a low heat for 15-20 minutes. Then add sufficient boiling water to cover, add the stock cubes, dissolved, stir well and simmer, covered, until carrots are soft.
NB: If you put the passata in at the start, the carrots and swede will take forever to cook. I noticed, also, that when I added the cabbage and peppers with the tomatoes, while both cooked, the peppers remained firm rather than mushy, and the cabbage was crisp, but fully cooked. Too many cheffy types seem to think that dunking cabbage in boiling water for 2 minutes is “cooked”; no, it’s not, it just hot and still raw. If, however, the chemical in tomatoes which prevents vegetables softening could be isolated, cabbage could be served crisp but cooked.
What it is in tomatoes that impedes the cooking/softening process I really have no idea, but cooking the veg as I did here meant that they were all perfectly cooked yet still retained their taste and texture.
Then add the passata, the peppers,** cabbage*** and orzo, stir well, return to the boil, and simmer until the orzo has swollen to at least twice its size, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick.
**Long, pointed, red peppers are far less fleshy than the watery bell peppers, but considerably tastier. They respond well to grilling and peeling before use, but I didn’t bother in this instance – they wouldn’t be cooked long enough for the flesh to separate from the skin.
***Pak choi works well too.
At this point you can drain and rinse the bean salad, and leave it in a colander for any water to run off. And if the pot looks too full already, remove the lid, increase the heat a little, and let it reduce for half an hour.
Add the beans, stir well, leave to simmer for 10 minutes, just to heat the beans through, check the seasoning (I just seasoned mine with black pepper as I don’t doubt the beans will add a little salt overnight).
Leave to cool and, when cold, refrigerate overnight for the flavours to get to know each other and snuggle up.
I have had a taste and, frankly, it’s bloody wonderful!
That’s me being modest, that is…
Yesterday I had a big bowlful (it’s exactly the meal in a bowl I was aiming for), and it was just as good, the tomato flavour fresh and slightly sharp, and the veggies cooked perfectly, and tasting of themselves, which was my aim.
If the sharpness bothers you – tomatoes are naturally a little sharp, or they were, at least, before they had their flavour bred out of them – the only solution is to sweeten the soup to the level of the Heinz variety which, frankly, will ruin it.
There is nothing at all wrong with a tomato-based soup actually tasting as tomatoes should.
And it occurs to me that if I were still able to make pea soup – comments are starting to come in from others with the same problem with split peas; it seems to be widespread – I might never have made this, or the chicken soup a few weeks ago, and it would have been my loss.
Sadly, this gets 4 Spoonie spoons,** as it’s quite labour-intensive, as I found to my cost. Technically, though, it’s very easy.
** Spoonie spoons measure physical effort needed, not cooking ability needed, and range from 1 spoon = very easy (cheese sarnie level), to 5 spoons = just about doable but take it easy, maybe over 2 days. If it’s ever 6 spoons, get someone else to do it!