Remember to care for the carers.
Your soup will never taste the same as this soup. It's my Mum's Minestrone. The ingredients change every week, but if you follow the basic instructions it will still taste good.
First you need a garden with soil that has been receiving an entire family's compost for over 50 years. (alternatively find a supermarket and buy all their sale items)
From that garden, depending on the season, you'll need to harvest some or all of the following:
Broccoli (leaves, stems and delicate florets,)
Zucchini (flowers, stems and fruit,)
Pumpkin (also include the stems and flowers)
Other leafy greens, some look like lettuce, some taste very bitter on their own.
Celery, stalks and leaves
Some fresh tomatoes... or a spoonful of pasta sauce, or tinned tomatoes if you must but it's not necessary.
Fresh green beans, broad beans or yellow ones
and the occasional bounty of goods given to you by neighbours who have equally productive gardens.
Fresh beans - use them all there will be more next
week, but soon there will be none left until next season.
Other ingredients which must always be in steady supply (or overstocked) are olive oil, salt, pastini (small pasta) or rice will do, onions, potatoes and carrots and plenty of parmesan cheese.
If they are not overstocked you may be tempted to only use a small portion, or one of each, they are best used with abundance.
This soup tastes best if you have too much of everything.
The single most important piece of equipment you will need is a very large pot.
A paring knife and a 50 year old bent chopping board makes the soup more authentic, but your own favourite utensils will do.
While someone is out picking all the ready and over ripe veggies from the garden, start peeling and dicing the onions, carrots and potatoes.
When the buckets of garden goodies arrives, give them a thorough clean. (NB. a bit of cracked pepper helps to disguise any bits of left over dirt you may have missed, but please try and be thorough)
Add a generous amount of oil to the pot. At least a 1/4 of a cup - and then some more, a bit more... oops, too much never mind - it gives good flavour.
Turn the stove up high.
Add the onion, and all other hard veggies and beans.
Pack in all the other nicely chopped stuff, stalks and all, as you go. Remember leafy greens reduce in size to practically nothing so keep packing them in.
pumpkin stalks in the soup.
Add a dollop or two of home made pasta sauce, tomato paste or tinned tomatoes, if you don't have fresh tomatoes
Add a couple of teaspoons of salt and cover the whole thing with water, right up to the top.
Bring the soup to a boil then reduce to a simmer with the lid on. After an hour or so the oil on top will be dark and rich looking, but this soup does not get ruined if you happen to forget it for a few hours.
It's time to add the pasta - about 200 grams if your pot is really big. You can of course still use 200 grams if the pot is smaller as long as there is enough room.
Now this is where I have changed the recipe a bit. Mum and Dad both like to keep the pot simmering for 10 -15 minutes after adding the pasta. I turn the stove off, add the pasta and wait about half an hour before serving, check to see if more salt is required. The soup will take several hours to cool in the pot.
The secret is in the serving.
Dad always cuts up slices of cheese for the bottom of the bowl. Those extra calories are fine for an elderly man and a dying woman, but aren't essential for the rest of us.
Parmesan cheese is however a delicious addition to the top. Some home made preserved chillies taste good too.
If you come from an older generation and have a vintage fridge, that freezes everything on the middle left shelf, then this soup will keep for a very long time. Otherwise I would suggest freezing it in smaller portions.
If you prefer soup with a more meaty flavour, adding some chicken, lamb or beef browned in the pot before adding the onions are family favourites. Mum loved the last lamb one I cooked the best, but it really is good enough without any extra protein.
So this post really could have been done as M for Mum's Minestrone, but for today I'm calling it soup.
Soup for satisfying weary souls whist in a state of semi conscious sorrow... that tastes yum, and even a tiny serving can fill a deep hole.
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