• Chef Dylan

MIXED BEAN MINESTRONE



This Winter, I’ve been feeling like eating hearty soups. It’s a wonderful feeling to sit at the table with a big bowl of steaming soup, a nice glass of red wine, the smell of freshly toasted bread still lingering in the air, and the pitter patter of rain softly falling on the tin roof.

This is one of those recipes you can make and let sit in the fridge for a few days to develop the flavours. It's an excellent easy dinner and can be reheated in a matter of minutes, or why not pour some into a flask and take it to work with you for a hearty, healthy lunch. There is no real set recipe for minestrone when it comes to the vegetables. You can just use whatever you have in the fridge. I also mix up the beans, I love butter beans, but red kidney or borlotti beans are also wonderful. Add some Gaucho to this soup for a nice herb kick to really tie the ingredients together.

As a teenager I would often spend rainy days at school in the library during breaks because books have a magical ability to transport you to other worlds. I would spend hours looking at the paintings of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle superhero namesakes of Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo and Donatello and my favourite the Primavera by Botticelli. I would touch the pages and imagine what it must be like to see them in the flesh.


Fast forward eight years and I’m standing in line at the Piazza Della Signoria for the Uffizi Gallery in the historic centre of Firenze. I look up at the severed head of Medusa, freshly cut by Perseus, and shake my head in amazement at the realism of the bronze sculpture. Once through the doors I head straight to the painting that I have come here to see - the Primavera. As I reach the third floor, I turn into a small dimly lit room and I see it. There are about 20 people all vying for a position; I muscle my way through, something you learn to do quickly in Italy.


With my nose 3cm from the masterpiece, I can smell the age of it, and as I look closely, I can make out each brushstroke and I’m transfixed. I imagine Botticelli’s hand dipping the paintbrush into the paint and masterfully stroking the canvas. What a gift. I’m blown away that I can see and smell the original painting that was in the books of my school library all those years ago. As I move on and take in the rest of the art, I’m amazed that a kid from a blue-collar working-class family can end up here, feasting his eyes and spirit with the art of the masters. Indeed, dreams can come become a reality.


PREP TIME: 15 mins

COOKING TIME: 1 hr

SERVINGS: 4-6


INGREDIENTS


  • 3 cloves of garlic

  • 1 red onion

  • 2 carrots

  • 2 sticks of celery

  • 1 zucchini

  • 1 small leek

  • 1 large potato

  • 1 x 400g tin of butter beans

  • 4 rashers bacon

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 tbsps GAUCHO

  • 1 fresh bay leaf

  • 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

  • 1 litre of organic vegetable stock

  • 1 large handful of seasonal greens such as silverbeet, kale, or beetroot leaves

  • 100g shell pasta

  • ½ a bunch of fresh basil,

  • Parmesan cheese


METHOD

  1. Peel and finely chop the garlic and onion. Trim and chop the carrots, celery and zucchini into 2cm chunks, then chuck the vegetables into a large bowl.

  2. Cut the ends off the leek, quarter it lengthways, wash it under running water, then cut into 1cm slices. Add to the bowl.

  3. Peel then 1cm dice the potato.

  4. Drain the butter beans.

  5. Finely slice the bacon.

  6. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the bacon and fry gently for 2 minutes, until crispy-ish.

  7. Add the garlic, onion, carrots, celery, courgette, leek, and GAUCHO and cook slowly for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables have softened, stirring occasionally.

  8. Add the potato, butter beans and chopped tomatoes, then whack in the vegetable stock. Stir well, cover with a lid and bring everything slowly to the boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes or until the potato is cooked through.

  9. Remove and discard any tough stalk bits from the greens, then roughly chop.

  10. Make sure potato is cooked by piercing with a knife.

  11. Add the greens and pasta to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.

  12. Add a touch more stock or water to loosen up, if needed.

  13. Roughly chop the basil leaves and stir through. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

TO SERVE


Serve with grated parmesan alongside toasted ciabatta with melted butter and a glass or two of Chianti.