My cousin Erica is up in Brisbane at the moment for a training course with her new job so on Sunday we picked her up from the airport and high-tailed it to The Farm for arvo tea with Julie, the boys and Grandad. Then we spent an hour or so trying to display the wedding photos from the other weekend on the TV so that everyone could see them but without the cables to do the job easily we didnâ€™t get very far.
In planning dinner for Sunday night I had to take into plan the Pesco-vegetarian preference of Erica and the red meat carnivore that is my younger brother, who whilst he likes fish would rather eat his own leg before he had prawns or other shell fish. That threw my idea of actually cooking seafood paella in my paella pan which thus far has only been used to make curries out the window. As I was flicking through magazines I had out from the library I came across a recipe for Pasta e Fagioli in the May 2005 issue of Delicious. That looks good I thought and hopefully the men in my family wonâ€™t kick up too much of a fuss about the lack of meat in it.
I come from a culinary upbringing (doesnâ€™t that sound swish) where the recipe mostly serves as a starting point and by the time you are eating the meal you are quite a few steps removed from the start. This is mainly due to the addition of extra vegetables in recipes. â€œWhat! The only vegetable called for is for a small onion and a stalk of celery? That is not much of a meal. Add some shallots as well and whatever else you can find is in the freezer/fridge/pantry.â€ Our freezer is a sight to see as it contains many Tupperware containers of chopped celery, shallots, capsicum, mushrooms etc that at a moments notice can be dumped into a saucepan to beef up the nutritional and taste content of a meal. Consequently, my ability to give you an accurate measure of what went into the soup is about as likely as seeing pigs fly. Unless you can follow the measure of half a tightly packed medium Tupperware container? No? I didn’t think so.
Pantry Soup or Minestrone
Garlic â€“ a couple of cloves, minced. (I mince up garlic and freeze it in teaspoon sized foil packets)
Onion – diced
Carrot – diced
Celery – thinly sliced
Capsicum – diced
Pasta â€“ soup pasta is good, or any small pasta – 150g or so
Beans â€“ cannelloni and borlotti (3x400g tins or so serves 6 easily, drained)
Passata di Pomodoro – tablespoon or two
Tomatoes â€“ 1x400g tin, whole and roughly chopped
Baby spinach – a handful or two
Vegetable stock – how much depends on how much soup you are making (9/10 times we used powder, it is easy)
Either on the stove top or microwave cook the pasta till it is about 7/8 cooked.
Meanwhile heat some olive oil in a large saucepan and soften the onion. Add the garlic and whatever other veggies you are using and cook for a couple of minutes till the veggies start to soften.
Roughly mash one of the tins of beans and add to the saucepan along with the other tins of beans,tomatoes and a little bit of Passata.
In the empty tins pour in some boiling water and a little bit of stock powder and pour into the soup (you get your moneyâ€™s worth this way, you wonâ€™t be throwing out any little bit of flavour). How much stock you add really is up to you as it depends on a) how much liquid you want in the soup and b) what quantities of vegetables you have used initially.
Bring this to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes and then add the cooked pasta, simmer for a couple more minutes and then stir through a couple of handfuls of baby spinach (basil could also work nicely here I think) allowing it to wilt a bit in the hot soup and serve with some crusty bread.
In the batch I made today I also added a couple of slices of roast capsicum that I had cut into thin strips to give add some more texture and flavour.
Grandad was wolfing it down and I canâ€™t remember he if only had seconds or had thirds as well. The Palsson men didnâ€™t complain too much about the lack of meat in it and the rest of it also quite enjoyed it. For dessert we had a chocolate self-saucing pudding but that will have wait till next time as I have no photo.