Monday, August 15, 2011
Before my children were born, I was lucky enough to be invited to an Italian friends holiday house in South Australia for Easter.
There was a lot of Buona Pasqua (Happy Easter), so much delicious food and many visitors over the four day holiday. Family, friends, friends of friends, neighbours and acquaintance's. Everyone was invited.
I will never forget sitting at the kitchen table and watching four generations of Italian woman effortlessly produce a seven course Good Friday lunch. Aunts, cousins, Nonna's and daughters seemed to dance and sway around the kitchen, gossiping and laughing as they made the most delicious chicken lasagne I have ever eaten, before or since.
When the lasagne came to the table, I proclaimed that it was the best thing I had ever eaten. My friend looked at me as if it say "you shouldn't have said that" and soon another healthy portion was passed to me from her mother. "Mangiare, mangiare!" "Eat, eat!" My friend leaned in to me and told me that their would be five more courses.
Oh no, I come from an Australian family where lasagne and salad is a meal. Nothing could have prepared me for that feast or the amount of food that we continued to eat over the next couple of days.
When we returned to Adelaide, I was to stay one more night with her family. My friend cooked me a delicious fettuccini ai funghi, while her parents sat down to a bowl of minestrone soup. Her mother had made 2 large stock pots of minestrone and my friend told me that her family would eat the soup for the next two weeks. This was their way of cleansing their bodies after so much rich Easter food.
I always think of them whenever I make a pot of minestrone. This is the recipe that I have been cooking long before that Easter and my only adjustment is that I have made the addition of meat (bacon) optional. I think of my friends who did not add meat to their soup when they were detoxing.
• 1 cup dried haricot beans (soaked overnight)
• 1 tables. olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
• 2 leeks or 1 onion (chopped)
• 2 carrots (sliced)
• 2 stalks celery (sliced)
• 2-3 rashers bacon or pancetta (diced) - optional • 1 teas. rosemary (finely chopped)
• 1 tables. parsley (finely chopped)
• 2 potatoes (peeled and cut into 2 cm cubes)
• 2 zucchinis (sliced)
• 1/2 small cabbage or 1/4 large cabbage (shredded)
• 1/2 cup macaroni
• 2 litres chicken stock
• 2 x 445 grams tin tomatoes
• 1 tables. tomato paste
• crusty bread
• grated parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in a large stockpot. Gently sauté the garlic, leeks, carrot,celery and bacon is using. When slightly softened, add the herbs, haricot beans and potatoes. Cook until the leeks are soft. Add the stock, tinned tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Add the zucchini, cabbage and macaroni and continue cooking for 20 more minutes. Add more stock if needed. Season to taste. Serve immediately with crusty bread and grated parmesan cheese.