Minestrone d’Estate

Summer Minestrone

This is an amalgam of summer vegetables cooked in vegetable stock with olive oil. The important ingredient is fresh borlotti beans (these are available from June onwards). The other distinguishing factor is that it includes lots of fresh tomato. I think it is delicious at room temperature.

This soup depends on two things for its effect. Firstly, the quality of the vegetables; be careful in selection, and be very careful to get the dicing right. If they are left too large it will make the soup coarse. The second is the stock; we have no garlic, chilli or pesto here to hide behind, just good vegetable broth.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg fresh borlotti beans, podded
  • 250 g runner beans, strings removed
  • 4 medium bunches carrots, peeled
  • 6 small summer turnips, scrubbed
  • 12 new potatoes, scraped
  • 6 medium courgettes, topped and tailed
  • 6 ripe plum tomatoes, skinned and seeded
  • 6 large spring onions, trimmed
  • 1 kg spinach, washed good olive oil salt and pepper
  • 1 litre Vegetable Broth

Method

Prepare all the vegetables. Cook the borlotti for 30–40 minutes until tender, allow to cool in their liquor (this can be done in advance), then drain well as their cooking liquor becomes rather murky and would spoil the soup. Cut the runner beans diagonally into thin strips; they may benefit from a brief preliminary boiling – 3 minutes in salted water. Dice the carrots, turnips, new potatoes, courgettes and tomatoes. Keep them separate. Cut the spring onions into 2 cm lengths, and remove the stalks from the spinach before roughly chopping the leaves.

In a large pan heat 4 tbsp olive oil over a medium heat. Add all the vegetables except the spinach, borlotti and tomatoes. Season lightly and, stirring continuously, sweat until translucent, about 10 minutes. The potatoes sticking often indicates when this sweating process is done. Do not neglect this step, as the slowish cooking in the olive oil releases sugars and flavours from the vegetables which are lightly coloured. This is where quality flavour will come from.

Add the stock, turn the heat up, stir and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down again to medium and cook the soup somewhere between simmer and boil (slow boil to fast simmer) until the vegetables are done, about 30 minutes. Add the tomatoes, spinach and borlotti and cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check the seasoning and serve.

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