I used to really hate minestrone soup when I was at school. I remember it as bright red thick soup from a can that involved mushy pasta and one bland mouthful would taste exactly the same as the next, yuk. A good minestrone however couldn't be more different as it's all about freshness and simplicity and letting whatever veg and herbs that are in season shine through. It's really easy to make too and changes as the seasons progress so you don't get bored of it either. This one is my Spring version using whatever has managed to survive the winter or was planted earlier in the year. I've used ham stock and added some leftover ham hock but usually I will just use chicken or veg stock, it's really about whatever you have to hand.
Now I know lots of people find flowers in food really twee but I love it! Just as popping a flower in my hair makes me instantly feel happier, flowers in food have the same effect. From salads and soups to cocktails and cakes, they make everything look pretty, summery and happy! There are lots of edible flowers that are really easy to grow like nasturtiums, violas, marigolds, primroses, borage, wild garlic and courgette flowers, and for many of them now is the perfect time to be planting too!
- olive oil
- 4 spring onions
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 leek
- good stock - chicken, veg or ham.
- mixed seasonal veg - I used asparagus, baby carrots, chard, beetroot leaves and peas
- herbs such as parsley, mint, chives, wild garlic
- ham hock (optional)
- pasta - I like to use tagliardi which is really thin but you could use bashed up spaghetti, macaroni or those little tiny ones shaped like stars are really pretty.
- edible flowers
- salt and pepper
- Heat your stock and prep your veg first as this soup takes just a few minutes to come together and you want all your lovely veg to still have a bit of bite to them. If you are using asparagus snap off the woody ends and chop. Carrots will need to be sliced reasonable finely so that they cook quickly.
- In a separate saucepan gently soften the chopped spring onions, garlic and leek in the olive oil over a medium heat. Add your hot stock then once boiling add your pasta and any hardier veg. After a couple of minutes add the more tender veg and any leftover ham or chicken that you wish to add. Cook until the pasta is ready, season and spoon into your bowls and scatter your herbs and flowers on top before drizzling with your favourite olive oil.
The woody ends of asparagus are a brilliant addition to a stock. I keep a bag in the freezer that I keep adding the asparagus off cuts to and when there is enough for a decent stock I use them to make a really good soup or risotto base.