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Tuesday 22 May 2012

Sluttishly Savoury: Spring Minestrone

Oh Sunshine you sexy thing you make me all happy, I'm going to make everything super pretty today starting with my food!

I used to really hate minestrone soup when I was at school. I remember it as bright red thick soup from a can that involved mushy pasta and one bland mouthful would taste exactly the same as the next, yuk. A good minestrone however couldn't be more different as it's all about freshness and simplicity and letting whatever veg and herbs that are in season shine through. It's really easy to make too and changes as the seasons progress so you don't get bored of it either. This one is my Spring version using whatever has managed to survive the winter or was planted earlier in the year. I've used ham stock and added some leftover ham hock but usually I will just use chicken or veg stock, it's really about whatever you have to hand.

Now I know lots of people find flowers in food really twee but I love it! Just as popping a flower in my hair makes me instantly feel happier, flowers in food have the same effect. From salads and soups to cocktails and cakes, they make everything look pretty, summery and happy! There are lots of edible flowers that are really easy to grow like nasturtiums, violas, marigolds, primroses, borage, wild garlic and courgette flowers, and for many of them now is the perfect time to be planting too!

You'll need:
  • olive oil
  • 4 spring onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 leek
  • good stock - chicken, veg or ham.
  • mixed seasonal veg - I used asparagus, baby carrots, chard, beetroot leaves and peas
  • herbs such as parsley, mint, chives, wild garlic
  • ham hock (optional)
  • pasta - I like to use tagliardi which is really thin but you could use bashed up spaghetti, macaroni or those little tiny ones shaped like stars are really pretty. 
  • edible flowers
  • salt and pepper
Make it!
  1. Heat your stock and prep your veg first as this soup takes just a few minutes to come together and you want all your lovely veg to still have a bit of bite to them. If you are using asparagus snap off the woody ends and chop. Carrots will need to be sliced reasonable finely so that they cook quickly. 
  2. In a separate saucepan gently soften the chopped spring onions, garlic and leek in the olive oil over a medium heat. Add your hot stock then once boiling add your pasta and any hardier veg. After a couple of minutes add the more tender veg and any leftover ham or chicken that you wish to add.  Cook until the pasta is ready, season and spoon into your bowls and scatter your herbs and flowers on top before drizzling with your favourite olive oil.
The woody ends of asparagus are a brilliant addition to a stock. I keep a bag in the freezer that I keep adding the asparagus off cuts to and when there is enough for a decent stock I use them to make a really good soup or risotto base.


  1. Oh Hazel, I love this so hard. What a beautiful photo too!

    On a really basic level, when you talk about using woody bits of asparagus to make a stock, how do you do that? In fact, how do you *make* a stock? I tried it with lamb once, put over lots of water and added veg etc, but it all went so unbelievably greasy that I had no idea what to do with it.

    1. Stock is ace. I make a veg stock just by putting all my peelings and trimmings like the woody asparagus ends, green bit of leek, carrot peelings, broccoli ends etc in a pot of cold water with a couple of bay leaves, a few peppercorns and some salt and let it simmer away for a couple of hours really gently then strain. I like to then put the strained stock back in the pan and reduce it by about half to really concentrate the flavours.

      Stock freezes really well too so I often pop it in a plastic freezer bag and bung it in the freezer until I need it.
      Lamb itself it pretty fatty so you just want to use the bones for stock. If you get lots of fat then just leave the stock to go completely cold then the fat will form a hard layer on the top which you can just lift off then use it to make an amazing shepherds pie or tagine :)

  2. Oh, you make food so pretty - it's REALLY hard to prettify soup. I do love an edible flower. Borage is one of my favourite Waitrose things.

  3. Waitrose sells borage flowers? It's extremely easy to grow and it's not too late - for the cost of one packet you could keep yourself and friends in fresh flowers all summer and encourage bees and butterflies to your garden/patio! The flowers are particularly nice frozen into ice cubes and used in Pimms, juice or G&Ts.


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