I really grappled over whether this was a minestrone. I associate minestrone with a tomatoey, pasta, beany dish however there is no set recipe for a minestrone, as ultimately, what I’ve learned, is that minestrone is made up of whatever happens to be in season at the time that you’re cooking it.
With this in mind, this dish fits the bill. It’s based very loosely on a River Cafe recipe but really came about because of what we had knocking about in the fridge in the early days of our holiday in the Scottish Isles. And in fact I didn’t even cook it. My brother-in law did and it was so bloody good, I had to record it and share it with whoever was prepared to read about it – it’s simple, light and packs a real flavour punch.
Essentially, it’s asparagus and broad beans cooked in a rich, flavoursome home-made stock finished off with cream and served with home-made pesto dollopped on top. I don’t even like pesto as a rule (over did it in the 90s when it really became trendy) but this really won me over. If you wanted to bulk it out you could add beans and peas but it was truly lovely and simple with just these two greens.
Stock. The usual suspects but flavour-enhanced with lots of fresh herbs and garlic which you would tend to leave out for a normal stock
- Raw or cooked chicken carcus
- 1 or 2 skinned and halved onions
- 1 or 2 charrots, roughly chopped
- Celery roughly chopped into a few pieces
- Whole head of garlic sliced in two
- Handful of herbs – oregano, thyme and rosemary, bay
Pesto. The great thing about pesto is you can make it exactly to your liking by adding more or less of everything. These are roughly the quantities we used to create a decent sized tub (which fed 5 greedy people as part of the soup starter)
- Large handful of fresh basil leaves
- Large handful of grated parmesan
- 3 large garlic cloves
- Half handful untoasted pine nuts
- A few generous glugs of olive oil
- Plenty of sea salt and ground pepper, to taste.
Combine all the ingredients for the stock, just cover with water, and simmer for as long as it takes to get to a nice, rich flavour. We simmered for a good hour/hour and a half. Meanwhile, blitz all the pesto ingredients. Strain the stock and season to taste. Depending on the quantity of stock needed, you could continue to reduce the liquid at this point by bringing to a vigorous boil. Once ready, add the trimmed asparagus and broad beans however this needs to be staggered so the greens are ready at the same time so pop the asparagus in a bit earlier and the broad beans slightly later. Cooking times will vary according to the size and really it depends on how el dente you like your veg.
Add a few good few glugs of cream just before serving into bowls. Pop the pesto on the table so you can dollop on as little or as much as you like. We had this as a starter before a particularly good crab linguini and it was divine.