Garden Minestrone

Summer Garden Salad
18th April 2019
Backyard paradise: urban biodynamic bliss
30th July 2019

This is a true gardener’s soup to enjoy from mid August through to October. Made from whatever vegetables are at hand, plus tomatoes and flavourings such as garlic, bay, and fresh herbs, its success depends on nothing more than freshly picked produce.

There is no set recipe for minestrones. Follow the general method, and it soon becomes instinctive, and always turns out well.

Garden ingredients: serves 4
500g fresh Borlotti beans or 200g dried and soaked overnight
1 onion, diced
1 stick of celery, diced
2 medium potatoes, washed and diced
2 medium carrots, washed and diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 large courgette, quartered and sliced
1 large tomato, diced
A handful of baby spinach or Swiss chard, washed and shredded
Fresh herbs e.g. basil, parsley, oregano, sage, thyme
To finish: freshly chopped parsley (optional) extra olive oil

From your kitchen:
1 bay leaf – use fresh if you have a bay tree
Parmesan (optional)
3 tbsp extra virgin organic olive oil
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions: ( see pics below)

  1. Soak the dried Borlotti beans overnight for 12 hours in water. Drain the beans. Cook the beans in 1 litre of fresh water with the bay leaf until tender – check after 25 minutes for fresh or 50 -60 minutes for dried. Discard the bay leaf and set the beans aside in their cooking water.
  2. In a large heavy based pan, sweat the onion, celery, potato, carrot and garlic in olive oil on a low heat with the lid ajar for 15-20 minutes to partially soften.
  3. Add the courgette, stir and cook for 5 minutes, then add the cooked beans and their cooking water
  4. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat to a simmer, and add the diced tomato, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Next add a handful of spinach or Swiss chard and a sprig of herbs of your choice.
  5. Simmer for a few minutes until the greens have wilted and all the vegetables are cooked. Finish with chopped parsley if using, and ladle into bowls, drizzling some extra virgin olive oil on top.
  6. The soup is best after a few minutes “rest” and not too hot so that you can taste the flavours. Have a wedge of Parmesan if using and grater on the table, and extra olive oil for everyone to share.

Cook’s notes:
• Exact quantities are not that important. Aim for a balance of vegetables by volume – best judged by eye – that ‘like’ each other, whose flavours blend together well, and judicious use of seasoning and herbs, so taste the soup as it progresses and adjust to your liking.
• You can substitute Borlotti with home grown runner beans / French beans that have gone to seed that you don’t want to keep to sow the following year. Green beans, broad beans ,and fresh peas can also be added. Add older, tougher ones at the beginning of cooking.
• As Autumn progresses, change the character e.g. with corn on the cob – slice the kernels off with a knife; with cauliflower or other greens such as kale and shredded cabbage.
• Extra tomatoes, a little left over tomato sauce, or tomato puree can also be added
• For a meaty version, add some neatly diced organic bacon in step 2.
• Keep it fresh and avoid over cooking the vegetables. Slicing/ dicing/shredding hard or soft vegetables to different sizes helps ensure all the ingredients finish cooking at the same time and the minestrone maintains texture and identity of flavours.
• Pesto is a brilliant with this soup, and takes it to a different level of piquancy. Have a small bowl at the table – 1-2 tsp. per serving is about right (you will not need Parmesan).

Nutrition and well-being:
Borlotti beans are both deliciously creamy and extremely nutritious, being a valuable source of protein (19%) containing all 9 essential amino acids, and gut friendly fibre and slow release carbohydrates (low GI)

Garden minestrones are well being in a bowl. They pack a nutrient dense punch, satisfy the body’s hunger, and are rehydrating – important for mood, recharging your metabolism, boosting your immune system and the key to good health. Make them part of your life and enjoy!

Gardening notes:
Fresh Borlotti beans can be picked from late summer, when the beans start to swell.
Tip: If you want to dry the beans for the winter store cupboard, leave them to mature on the plants until the skins are papery: you will know they are ripe because they gradually change in colour from pale to their characteristic mottled burgundy appearance. Pop open the pods and leave the beans to dry on a tray indoors for one to two weeks before storing in a cool, dry place.

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Garden minestrone

Photos: Lee Parish