- Think about the wonder of vegetables.
- Make an amazing vegetable stock. (Here's how.)
- Start with onions and garlic on a gentle heat. I don't know why they always get to go first but they do, so just humour them, ok?
- Once they've softened, add hard vegetables like celery and carrots. Then let in things like courgettes.
- Once you've got a bit of a sizzle going, add your homemade stock.
- Keep it going for at least half an hour, seasoning and tasting as you go.
- When you're happy with the flavour add the vegetables that don't take much cooking, like asparagus, peas and beans, then introduce some cooked pasta or rice and perhaps some fresh basil.
- Douse your dish with olive oil and Parmesan, and dunk in fresh bread.
What did it taste like? Fresh and wholesome; the Parmesan adding essential frolics to this super-healthy dish. It was actually better the day after, once the flavours had developed more. I was initially afraid of overcooking the more delicate vegetables but on gentle reheating, I was really happy with the result; the asparagus et al graciously kept their crunch.
PS The fresh parsley on the breadsticks went delightfully crispy.
- You can add pancetta at the start of cooking to get more flavour. I didn't because I was interested in the depth of flavour I could obtain with vegetables only.
- A Parmesan rind in the soup will also deepen flavour. Remove it before serving and don't tell your dinner guest if, like mine, he is anti-cheese.
- The vegetables in my soup, in order of appearance/addition to the pot, were: carrots, leeks, swiss chard (stalks), courgettes. The stock went in at this point, then when it was nearly ready I added asparagus, swiss chard (greens), broad beans, kidney beans and fresh peas.
- If using canned beans, give them a good rinse before adding.