There are as many varieties of Minestrone (literally "BIG SOUP") as there are people who cook it. My version is is created with speedy preparation in mind and avoids using pasta substituting Pearl Barley as the thickener, though wholemeal pasta can be used if you prefer. Also avoided are the use of chicken stock or stock cubes instead adding salt and lots of ground pepper directly. You can easily add/remove vegetables and pulses as availability and taste dictate.
- 4 large carrots
- 1 large onion
- 2 medium leeks
- 4 sticks celery
- 2x 400g tinned tomatoes
- 1x 400g tinned mixed beans
- 120g dried pearl barley
- 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes (or any salt)
- 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Any fresh vegetables you like (e.g. runner beans)
- 1 Roughly chop the basic vegetables (carrots, onion, leeks, celery), as well as any similar vegetables you intend to use.
- 2 Place into a large non-stick soup/stock pan and begin to "sweat" for ten minutes on a medium-low heat, stir to avoid burning or sticking.
- 3 (You may add a table-spoon or two of olive oil or similar if you like, but it isn't necessary).
- 4 When the vegetables have reduced in volume and have begun to cook, drain and add the tinned beans, also add the tins of tomatoes, the pearl barley, salt & peppers.
- 5 Add any chopped fresh vegetables you wish to use (e.g. runner beans).
- 6 Add enough boiling water (from a kettle) to cover the food by two or three inches. It should feel very liquid - the pearl barley will expand and soak water.
- 7 Raise heat to start a boil, then reduce to a strong simmer. Stir well and frequently to avoid sticking, add water if it's becoming too thick.
- 8 Simmer for about 40 minutes. The pearl barley should have expanded and be cooked, the liquid reduced.
- 9 If it is too watery, cook a little longer; if it is too thick add some boiling water.
- 10 Serve and Enjoy!