That's correct, I am still whingeing about winter. However, today I decided that since we are half way through, I need to chin up, get on with it, and embrace winter with a half glass full attitude.
Soup is best friends with cold weather. It's one of those dishes that instantly fills the stomach and warms the toes (which is important for someone like me who gets chilblaines...embarrassingly so). Tonight instead of making a depressing, stodgy casserole which would only encourage laziness and gluttony, I decided to amp up my regular minestrone soup to help me take on a sunnier disposition.
Chock a block with the greenest and healthiest of vegetables, Minestrone Verde is also probably the prettiest lookin' soup out there. Who needs cold and flu tablets when one bowl of this will set your immune system up for the whole sick season? This soup could not come at a better time - tomorrow I leave for a 5 day camping trip with my friends to the Splendour in the Grass Festival and have been slurping on this like an athlete carbo loading for a marathon as I shudder to think what a weekend of solid alcohol consumption, lack of sleep, dagwood dogs and squealing will do to my body.
Not only that, but the beautiful freshness of the soup helps in reminding me that there's only a couple more months until I can revive my body and soul in the sun once again...
Minestrone Verde with Broccoli and Feta Pesto
(any green vegetables can be added to this soup, anything works, and all measurements are variable - if you absolutely love zucchini add more, or use parmesan in place of feta in the pesto if you hate feta)
for the pesto:
half a head of broccoli, lightly blanched in boiling water for about 1 minute
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1 tablespoon of walnuts
50g persian feta
In a food processor, add the walnuts, basil, broccoli, garlic, salt and pepper. Blend until roughly chopped. With the processor still going, slowly pour the olive oil into the blended herbs to create a thick paste. Add more if it becomes too thick. Remove pesto from processor and hand stir some crumbled feta through it so you get bursts of salty feta in the pesto.
for the soup:
1/2 bulb of fennel, finely diced - keep the little green furry leaves from the top of the fennel to garnish the soup as they give added flavour
1 brown onion, finely diced
2 zucchinis, halved lengthways and sliced into small chunks 1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends removed and cut into 3cm long sticks
1 bunch of broccolini, cut into 3cm long sticks
Handful of baby spinach or bok choy
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
1 cup frozen or fresh peas
1.5 litres vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup water
Handful of dried spaghetti, broken in half
Fresh basil leaves
Fresh mint leaves
In a deep pan on medium heat, saute off the onions, garlic and fennel in some olive oil, salt and pepper until translucent and slightly golden. Add a dash of white wine at this stage if you like. Now add the zucchini and fry off for a few minutes as these will take the longest to cook out of all the vegies and I think their flavour benefits from a bit of browning. Now add the stock and water, and bring to the boil. Add the broken up pasta and boil for about 4-5 minutes.
In the last few moments, add the asparagus, broccolini, chickpeas, spinach, peas and fresh herbs. These bursts of green vegies give a beautiful colour to the soup and I use a lot of herbs because not only do they colour the soup but they give a delicious, fresh flavour.
Serve in bowls, with a spoonful of the pesto on top. Add some grated parmesan, serve with crusty bread and you're set. Hello summer...nearly.