Early Summer Minestrone

Home grown veg, no matter how small or misshapen, are a world away from those bought from the supermarket. It has that something special, it’s been cared for by you, it’s got soul. Over the year homegrown veg can provide you with so many fresh and vibrant tastes; from the earliest of peas and beans, to the sugary sweetcorn of late summer, to the pumpkins and roots of autumn.
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This soup is like taking a seasonal look at the plot. It’s a vehicle for the fabulously mixed flavours of the allotment this month (or any month actually). At its base is a great chicken stock and a softened soffritto (the classic Italian soup and sauce base); but apart from that the soup is about using what is available. As such a recipe is not what you need to make this, all you need to do is go to the garden and pick what is in season. The soup benefits from the freshest of vegetables, balanced with a good source of carbs. In huge spirit of adding what you have in season, then this should be potatoes or dried beans. I often use broken pasta or some of the tiny pasta shapes like orzo, combined with small dice potatoes and cannellini or a similar bean.

You will need (serves 4)
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 carrots, cut into fine dice
2 sticks of celery, cut into fine dice
Seasonal vegetables of your choice (at the moment a couple of handfuls of fresh peas and broad beans, 3 large leaves of Swiss chard, shredded, but any veg works)
1.5l good quality chicken stock
1 potato, cut into 2cm dice
100g cooked and drained haricot beans (or whatever bean you have)
150g pasta (I’ve used broken bits of pasta, but orzo or another small pasta is great too)
Grated parmesan and a few mint or basil leaves, to serve

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the onion and garlic, softening for 5 minutes, before adding the carrot and celery and softening further. Add the rest of the seasonal vegetables in order of cooking time (peas won’t take as long as courgette for example) and allow to soften slightly. Stir in the potato, stir for a moment, then add the stock, the cannellini beans and pasta. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes until the potato and pasta are cooked. Season to taste, drizzle with some olive oil, a grating of parmesan and some torn mint leaves.

 

 

Rocket Pesto – A Guest Post from Little Button Diaries

I’m really excited to have a guest post from Brighton baking, making and baby bloggers, Little Button Diaries. They’ve been a huge influence on this new blog, and ignited my inner crafter as well. Here’s their post, and a great use of the rocket at the allotment.

Homemade Rocket Pesto

I’m always looking for inspiration for new ways to get creative in the kitchen utilising the fruit and veg I get from my garden. Simon’s blog is one of my bookmarked blog for it’s inspiring kitchen ideas and gardening tips and so I’m really happy he asked Little Button Diaries to write a guest post.

I have the smallest postage stamp of a garden, but despite its size I’m living proof that you don’t need a vast space to grow your own vegetables. I’m a big fan of growing things in tubs and pots and this year I decided to grow some rocket in a rusty old supermarket basket I found in my Gran’s garage (good stealing Gran!). As a pretty solid weed, it took over in abundance and I was left wondering what I could do with mountains of rocket – as it has definitely got too cold for salads now. I decided to make rocket pesto, which is actually a good peppery alternative to the basil version. Its also very very easy!

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What you will need
A good bunch (about 50g) of rocket leaves
1 clove of garlic
salt
Juice from half a lemon
25g lightly toasted pine nuts
25g parmesan
125ml olive oil

Begin by putting the garlic, salt and nuts into a blender and pulse until finely chopped – don’t blend for too long or it will start to turn to a paste. Remove from the blender and do the same for the rocket leaves and lemon juice, with a small dash of the oil. Then remove and combine the nuts and rocket with the remaining oil, mixing well.

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This is can then be stored in the fridge and used in just the same way as basil pesto. I mixed mine into some cooked penne, grated on some cheese and breadcrumbs and gave it a blast in a hot oven. Very tasty it was too.

Penne with Cime di Rapa

The Cime di Rapa on the plot has reached maturity and I’ve begun to harvest the quick growing brassica. One of the classic dishes of Puglia is Orichiette con Cime di Rapa and to me it seemed a good plan to start eating the Cime di Rapa in this classic Italian pasta dish.

Looking online (as I tend to do to get ideas for meals) I found that, although the basic recipe was the same, there was quite a bit of variation in ingredients to accompany the Cime di Rapa. Some included cherry tomatoes, and the plot has a surfeit of them at the moment, so I included them. So I ended up with my own version of the dish, which I hope has some authenticity to it.

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What you will need (serves 2)
200g Penne (we had Penne in the cupboard, so used this instead of the classic Orichiette)
100g Cime di Rapa (trimmed to include thinner stalks and the floriferous heads)
3 anchovies (finely chopped)
10 cherry tomatoes (cut into halves)
1 clove of garlic (finely chopped)
Small pinch of chilli flakes
Handful of chopped parsley and grated Parmesan to finish the dish.

Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta (adding the Cime di Rapa after the first five minutes). Cook the penne until al dente, draining and retaining a small amount of the pasta water. As the pasta cooks fry the garlic, chilli flakes, anchovies and the chopped tomatoes. Once the pasta is drained, add to the sauce and toss to thoroughly mix. At this point I added a little of the pasta cooking water to bring the sauce together, then stirred in the Parmesan and parsley before serving.