Theo Randall's passion for good food developed from childhood holidays spent driving through rural Italy, and his cooking remains inspired predominantly by the Italian regional cuisine he enjoyed as a young boy. His Winter Minestrone is healthy, satisfying, vegetarian and very easy to prepare. The swiss chard adds an earthy sweetness to the soup and the beans, fresh basil and blanching water provide enormous flavour and a hearty texture. One can also purée half of the soup to get a lovely creamy minestrone that served with a handful of grated parmesan cheese and some grilled bread to sop up the juices, will warm the whole family during the cold winter months.
Recipe courtesy of Theo Randall
2 tbsp olive oil
3 celery sticks with the leaves, finely chopped
1 red onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
28 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 bunch swiss chard
28 oz can romano or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch fresh basil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fruity olive oil, to serve
Parmesan cheese, grated as garnish
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and slowly fry the celery, onion and carrots and garlic on a low heat for 20 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. Add in the tomatoes and stir, then cook for a further 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Meanwhile, remove the Swiss chard leaves from the stalks. Leave the leaves whole and finely chop the stalks. Blanch the leaves in a large pan of boiling salted water for about 3 minutes, or until tender. Using tongs, remove the leaves from the water, drain them in a colander, then chop and set aside. Add the chopped stalks to the water and cook for 3 minutes or until tender. Drain well in a colander set over a large bowl, reserving the blanching water, and set the stalks aside.
Add the beans to the tomato mixture and cook for 10 minutes before adding 2 to 5 cups of the reserved blanching water to the mixture, depending how loose a soup you prefer — I used all 5 cups. Bring the soup to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chard leaves and stalks along with the basil, then allow the soup to simmer on low heat for another hour. If you want a smoother soup, purée with a hand blender for about 10 seconds, which will make a creamy but still chunky consistency. Serve the soup hot with a good dash of fruity olive oil, some grated parmesan cheese and grilled bread to sop up the delicious juices.
I N M E M E M O R I A M
Aunt Mary Lou