Minestrone a la Lizzy
Once the first frost hits during winter in Canberra, it's time to reach for the long johns and snuggly blankets, and hibernate. Steaming hot soups are back on the menu, offering fuel and comfort food. So let's gather a few of my favourite ingredients, combine them with some hand-picked herbs and home-made stock, and let them simmer away until a delicious aroma fills the kitchen.
Last week (before I broke my foot), I pulled my shiny red French Oven out of storage and used it to make minestrone. Since borrowing a vintage burnt orange version from my MIL on a few occasions in the 1980s, I'd coveted one of my own. When my MIL passed away, her daughter inherited that piece (rightfully so). I'm afraid I wasn't prepared to pay the price tag of up to $500 attached to some brands (even when I co-owned the cookware store!). Then earlier this year, I found one in Aldi and snapped it up for $19.00. I have a few different pieces in their range. The quality is excellent as far as I'm concerned. A fair bargain, methinks. What say you?
Funnily enough, two nights ago there was a conversation on Twitter between my friends and fellow bloggers Celia and Mel about a six piece Le Creuset set that Mel spotted in her local Costco for $700.00 (well, $699.99 to be precise). Not bad value, I suppose, but when it comes to enamelled cast iron purchases I think I won in the money-saving stakes.
Celia commented that she had given her entire set of Le Chasseur away to her brothers and sisters in law (with a huge sigh of relief, apparently). She purchased Emile Henry clay ware instead, as she disliked the heavy weight of the pots and also found them difficult to clean. Agreed, sometimes things will catch in the base of enamelled cast iron cookware, which is why I will sometimes use a heat diffuser. On cleaning, yep, I agree there too. The instructions suggest a small amount of bleach to get rid of staining. I always dilute it down and wash the pot thoroughly afterwards. That said, I do also love clay and ceramic bakeware. A girl can never have too much, right?
Mirepoix... the holy trinity...
So now on to my recipe for Minestrone. We start with a mirepoix which, as you will know, is considered the 'holy trinity' in cooking. Here I'm using brown onions, tender stalks of home grown celery and some carrot. I've also added home grown garlic and a good handful of mushrooms to my recipe.
MINESTRONE A LA LIZZY
1 small smoked bacon hock
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
4 tender stalks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
400g can peeled and chopped tomatoes
few sprigs fresh lemon thyme
1-2 litres vegetable stock or water
400g can red kidney beans, drained
1 cup macaroni, cooked until almost al dente
2 cups button or baby Swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped, to garnish
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
extra virgin olive oil, to serve
crusty bread, to accompany
Wash the hock, remove any bristles and cut some slits into the skin with a sharp knife (this will allow the flavoursome juices to escape from the hock). Place it into the bottom of a large heavy based pan, together with the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, canned tomatoes and lemon thyme. Cover with the water or vegetable stock, bring to a gentle boil, then gently simmer for an hour until the meat is starting to fall away from the hock bone.
Add the kidney beans, mushrooms and pasta, and simmer gently for a further 20 minutes or so, until you have a rich, flavoursome soup and the mushrooms are tender. Check the flavour and season to taste with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. To serve, remove the sprigs of thyme, chop the meat into bite-sized cubes and spoon the soup into bowls over the meat. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, top with parsley and serve with crusty bread. Serves 4-6. Note: if preferred, you can gently saute the Mirepoix in a little olive oil before adding the hock and other ingredients.
Red kidney beans, a staple in my larder...
Home-grown lemon thyme... another favourite...
Cookin' with gas and my shiny French Oven (purr)...
Tell me dear readers, have you ever coveted a certain pieces of cookware? Do you prefer ceramic ware, enamelled cast iron, or another? And do you like to hibernate on chilly winter days?
13/6/2014 05:00:13 pm
Hibernating during the winter is so tempting. Relaxing with the family's warmth is the best! So, a comforting, healthy and filling minestrone soup a la Lizzy is perfect :).
14/6/2014 09:38:50 pm
Julie, thank you... : )
13/6/2014 05:30:50 pm
I dream and drool about owning a kitchenaid!!!! I love ceramic cookware Liz, and have also purchased the big frypan and Dutch oven from Aldi, seems to me, it's the only cookware I'm using at the moment! Anyway, off to the kitchen now, inspired to make your minestrone given that I've just bought some Swiss browns! Thanks Liz!!! :)
14/6/2014 09:39:22 pm
Happy cooking Andrea! And may that KitchenAid become a reality some day!
14/6/2014 09:40:37 pm
Celia, you know me too well, eh! Slowly but surely I have acquired a set... a lasagne dish and Dutch oven in pistachio green, a round casserole in Royal Blue and the Red Devil too! :D
13/6/2014 08:25:53 pm
I do love minestrone Lizzy and your version looks particularly comforting and delicious. I adore my Chasseur cooking pot, I use it constantly especially in the winter. It is heavy but I have learnt to work with it.
14/6/2014 09:41:12 pm
Jane, thank you! And you are so very petit too, making it even heavier! Happy cooking, my friend, stay warm!
You did hit a jackpot with that! You know what? I am with Celia in this. I know I am part of a minority but I don't care for Le Creuset at all. I hate the fact they are a pain to keep clean, whereas other brands (much cheaper) are easier to maintain. And honestly, the cheaper brands perform better as far as sticking food goes.
14/6/2014 09:42:02 pm
Hi there Sally! Interesting and good to hear your perspective... the soup is good and my foot is on the mend... op on Tuesday! Happy cooking : )
14/6/2014 12:43:49 pm
This looks so comforting! And l love your shiny red pot! What a great find! Hope your foot is coming along well...
14/6/2014 09:42:37 pm
Thanks so much, David... my foot is starting to improve, will see how I feel after the op on Tuesday!
14/6/2014 01:59:30 pm
I adore my Le Creuset. I have acquired a few now over the years and wouldn't be without them. Strangely I don't find them difficult to clean at all, but I use mine a lot in the oven so maybe that is why I get less sticking. They are heavy but my oven is at waist height so it is less difficult to get them in and out.
14/6/2014 09:43:27 pm
The hock does boost the flavour, Tania... you can also just chop some bacon if you prefer.
14/6/2014 02:39:18 pm
As the westerly has decided to blow at 60 km/hr for the first time this year, the minestrone looks most appetizing! Shall try yours as I have not put mushrooms in mine!! Interesting!! I have two 'Le Creuset' pieces and love them - don't know whether I would spend the money on other pots I do not really need!! 'Holy Trinity' - interesting 'cause have had 'discussions' with quite a few as to what it really means - I am told by some very knowledgeable souls that to make the soffrito' 'trinity' into 'holy trinity' there has to be garlic involved? In my house there always is anyways!! So, it is meant to be carrots/onions/ celery in Europe and onions/celery/ peppers in Tex-Mex and Mexican cooking. Don't know. just passin' on :) ! Hope you are not in too much pain and that the op date has been set!!!!!
14/6/2014 09:45:13 pm
Yes, Eha, there was garlic in my mirepoix... home grown of course! Keep smiling : )
15/6/2014 01:26:32 pm
My first thought and prayer tomorrow morning will be for you - all the best with the op, a fast recovery and no more extra problems this year . . .
16/6/2014 10:21:44 am
Eha, thank you for your good wishes.
14/6/2014 09:45:32 pm
Thanks Liz, is it rather special, isn't it : )
14/6/2014 04:40:41 pm
Ooh lizzy, this looks so warm and comforting. Delish and I am definitely gonna try it out.
14/6/2014 09:45:50 pm
Dhanya, thank you kindly : )
I don't own any decent cookware, but with the upgrade to an induction cooktop, I don't think enamelware would work anyway, so perhaps thats fortuitous. I am giddily excited though, to be receiving a FREE Chasseur french oven as a result of my Ariston oven purchase, so this will be my first piece. And I shall cherish it :) Unless, of course, I end up in the dislike camp.
14/6/2014 09:46:33 pm
How exciting, Fran... a kitchen upgrade AND a new pot! Awesome. Enjoy : )
14/6/2014 07:34:49 pm
Ahh - your timing could not be better Lizzy. Winter has settled in Sydney and today has been particularly cold. In fact i laughed at your first line, as my partner has just been out to the garage to rummage in the suitcases for a pair of long johns. Me? I cooked a curry then snuggled next to the cat in front of the fire xx
14/6/2014 09:47:08 pm
Ah Rachel, no better way to spend a weekend! : ) I'm looking forward to your Yorkies!
14/6/2014 08:52:01 pm
I had one of those Aldi pots a long time ago. Alas it didn't last. My Le Creuset is faring better but it has developed odd little pits at the base. I should have that looked into (said as if I should visit a doctor :P).
14/6/2014 09:47:36 pm
LOL, Lorraine... What happened to the Aldi one? And do you know why the Le Creuset is pitting?
15/6/2014 01:29:18 pm
I have a small Le Creuset sauce making pan, also pitting at the bottom: but I fully blame myself for not always scrubbing it out immediately after the meal!!
15/6/2014 04:56:12 am
I have a bunch of Le Creuset and love it, but it has its downsides, and I'm not sure it's good value. The cleaning issue that you discuss is real and a pain to deal with. Plus it's less sturdy than you'd think -- I once dropped a piece of Corning Ware that hit the edge of a Le Creuset pot. The Corning Ware was fine; but it took a big chip out of the enamel of the Le Creuset. Bummer. Anyway, lovely soup. I never put mushrooms in my minestrone, but I should.
16/6/2014 10:22:57 am
Ouch, John.... now that you say that I am quite cautious of dropping the cast iron enamelware onto my beautiful granite bench ops... that would be a disaster. Mushrooms are good in minestrone : )
15/6/2014 08:45:27 am
I bet the lemon thyme just makes this minestrone sing. I love lemon thyme (all thyme in fact) and manage to grow it year-round, even in soggy old Scotland. It is a superb all season addition to my recipes. And speaking of recipes, lovely minestrone. And love your bargain. Well done you! I need to be looking in Aldi more often if you find goodies like that lovely pot.
16/6/2014 10:23:29 am
Thyme is so lovely, Kellie... and when it's home grown, like mine, it does really sing! Thanks for stopping by.
15/6/2014 12:13:14 pm
can i just say first: i chuckled that FS's partner had to go to the garage to find his long johns. winter clothes don't get packed very far away here in hobart :-)
16/6/2014 10:25:06 am
Thanks Elizabeth... I can imagine that winter clothes stay close for you in Hobart... that said I've been there in July and worn short sleeves too! You'd never do that in Canberra. The flame orange is really stunning in the enamelware, isn't it.
15/6/2014 02:01:23 pm
I love my cast iron enamel cookware and yes, it always gets a good workout in winter. You certainly scored yourself a bargain. I can't believe that price. And what a warming and comforting looking soup xx
16/6/2014 10:25:45 am
Thanks Charlie... reading through all the comments, especially Maureen's, it will be interesting to see how they last...
That looks so hearty and delicious! I love minestrone in winter... I like mine with rice (I know it sounds weird!). :-) I don't have a Le Creuset... way too expensive and I wouldn't use them much anyway. I have a similar one from Benzer that I got really cheap when it was on sale. :-)
16/6/2014 10:26:06 am
Manu I sometimes put rice into my soups and casseroles too : )
15/6/2014 04:49:17 pm
I'd like to have Le Creuset, but I don't have it. I cook on stainless steal mostly and a couple of Teflon pans. Your soup looks delicious, Liz. Perfect for your cold days...
16/6/2014 10:26:33 am
Thanks Ela, interesting to hear your perspective on this cookware.
16/6/2014 10:27:46 am
Wow, Maureen! When I first read your comment I thought it said that you have one of the LESS expensive ones... what temperature did you have it on? Celia's Romertopf might be a better option for that bread?
16/6/2014 10:24:17 am
Although we are in the throes of summer here, I saw your recipe and as it is one of my favourite recipes I swooned somewhat. Now I need to invest in some cook ware like yours! x
19/6/2014 03:34:11 pm
Deena, thank you kindly : )
17/6/2014 02:44:47 am
Lizzy, you won't believe it but I am down to bare bones in this house with no food in sight. Even if I had lots of food prepared I would wish for a bowlful of this minestrone soup!
19/6/2014 03:34:28 pm
Wow Shulie, really?!
17/6/2014 01:08:05 pm
Sounds prefect indeed Lizzy! Definitely the perfect weather for soup. I have some of these Aldi pots, and so far so good :)
19/6/2014 03:34:44 pm
We will watch those pots with interest, eh Bec?
17/6/2014 11:00:49 pm
It's an oldie... but a goldie, love me a Minestrone. Mmmm. :)
19/6/2014 03:35:01 pm
Me too Anna : )
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Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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