Everything but the kitchen sink

As far as the Second Pancake is concerned, Tim is the Michelangelo of cooking. Everything's in perspective. He delivers beautiful, balanced, and truly satisfying food. The metaphor will make even more sense when he puts up his recipe for marble cake (you'll need a chisel) or the rhubarb pie he can only make over the course of several years lying on his back at the top of a chapel. I, however, am more along the lines of Jackson Pollock. I've got all the disorder, chaos, and mess of his work (though very little of the beauty, orchestration, or design). It is for this reason that you'll never be getting a recipe for soufflé or risotto from me. Minestrone, on the other hand, is right up my alley.

It's a mongrel of a soup, the old 'strone. A dog's breakfast. And, in the more literal sense, a human's lunch. My lunch, in fact. It's perfect for winter days when it's too cold to go shopping, you're too tired to put in much effort, and two carrots are poking their heads out of the crisper, begging to be used before they turn into sad, sorry, spongy semblances of their former selves. I'm sure there is, in some arcane tome, the original recipe for minestrone. I'm sure at one point it was possible to say what is and what is not minestrone. No more. The way it's going now, I'd be hard pressed to find a reason why a sock in a bucket can't call itself part of the long line of mighty and miserable minestrones. And that's just how it should be. Do you have water, a turnip, tomatoes and cumin? Hey, throw it in a pot and call it minestrone. Celery, lentils, and limes? Why not? Minestrone.

All this being said, I guess there are a few guiding lights for the minestrone faithful. Tomatoes are usually a good bet, plus some kind of beans, and I guess a bit of pasta and some veggies wont go astray. The beauty being that you have infinite capacity for experimentation. Is your pantry carrying carrots? Chop 'em up and toss 'em in. An abundance of asparagus? An excess of eggplants? A profusion of peas? A copiousness of courgettes? An oversupply of aubergines? A bounty of beans? A tendency to overdo simple alliterative wordplays? Whatever it is, let the magical gods of minestrone turn it into something delicious.

Given that this soup will always change depending upon what's in your cupboard, it's a little ridiculous to post a recipe. That being said, I can guarantee that if you put these things together and make them hot, they will taste divine:

Rowan's Ravishing MinestRowan-e


  • Red onion
  • Garlic
  • Sweet potato
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Pasta (I like little penne rigate, but whatever floats your boat)
  • Capsicum
  • Tomatoes
  • Kidney beans
  • Cannellini beans
  • Beef stock1
  • Chilli
  • Lime zest and juice
  • Salt, pepper, lemon pepper, cumin
  • Fresh basil, parsley, and loads of coriander (cilantro)

The cooking bit is about as tricky as tipping water out of a boot if the instructions are written on the heel:
Put the onion, garlic, and dry spices in olive oil and make it hot until they smell
Put the hard veggies in until they get a bit soft
Add water, stock, pasta and soft veggies,
When it's been simmering away long enough that the most distant corner of your house smells delicious, ladle out a bowlful, give it an extra dose of cracked pepper, add a
few toasted pine nuts, and start dipping thick slabs of buttery toast into your new concoction. The rest of the soup (you did make fifteen litres or so, right?) can go into every tupperware container you've got, thereby giving you delicious winter lunches for the next week.

(1) If you happen to have an old ham bone that you can let stew overnight to make
your own stock, all the better.

My intestines, they hurt

Jerusalem artichoke soup

Oh God, kill me now. As I write this I sit gripped with pain, dreading the inevitability that the loud contortions of my small bowel are heralding. Apparently it's the inulin. I take small comfort in the words of John Goodyer who understands my predicament:

Written in 1621 of Jerusalem artichokes, "Which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine than men."

And yet a part of me is looking forward to the leftovers. A small percentage of people are intolerant of inulin-rich ingredients such as Jerusalem artichokes, and it bugs the hell out of me that there's a food I can't eat — even moreso that it's a delicious food.

Prior to making this soup, my only experience with Jerusalem artichokes was of buying one years ago by mistake and wondering what the hell was wrong with my ginger. While they might look like ginger, these tubers actually have an earthy taste, and a marvellously creamy texture when boiled for a soup. I could see them pairing very well with mushrooms, and while I'm against arbitrary truffing in an effort to make thing fancier a drizzle of truffle oil would pair quite nicely with that earthiness.

This is a delicious and extremely simple soup to make, and rest assured that only a small number can't handle the hardcore taste sensation that is Jerusalem artichoke.

Jerusalem artichoke soup

Ingredients (makes 2 generous servings):

  • 500g Jerusalem artichokes peeled and sliced
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1/2 a small celery stick, finely diced
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • Splash of white wine
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp of butter for cooking plus a further tbsp to finish
  • 500ml chicken stock (or vegetable)
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • Healthy grating of nutmeg
  • Salt & white pepper

1. Cook the shallots, celery, and garlic in 2 tbsp of butter over a low heat until translucent, careful not to brown them. Add a splash of white wine and turn the heat up, simmering for 1 minute.
2. Add the sliced Jerusalem artichokes, mustard, nutmeg, chicken stock, and 500 ml of water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for for 20 minutes or until everything is tender, then puree with a stick blender and (optional) strain through a fine mesh sieve.
3. To finish, stir in the cream and remaining butter over gentle heat and season to taste. Drizzle with a grassy extra-virgin olive oil.