Chaos in our house has hit an all time high. I thought it was all under control, but in hindsight it was a trick of the mind caused by the delirium of prolonged sleep deprivation. Life with an adolescent, a toddler and two middle children requires a high threshold for noise, mess, ever evolving schedules and endless questions. Consequently, my mind is consumed with minimising the mayhem rather than what’s for dinner. As every cloud has a silver lining, my reduced mental capacity for meal prep has revived my love of the one dish meal. Luckily, it is cold outside, so soup is the obvious contender for this culinary category.
My weeknight meal prep this winter has moved from marinades and flavoured butters to soups, stews and any dish that can be served as a complete meal for more than one dinner a week. My inspiration definitely comes from the mouth watering ribollita and minestrone soups that I cooked with a labour of love in my first flat from the River Cafe cookbooks. So you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled across Rachel Roddy’s Instagram picture of her winter minestrone with the caption “beans and greens and pumpkin”. Luckily, all the ingredients I needed for the recipe were still in the bags from my Queens Park Farmers Market haul.
Like a possessed woman, I was immediately compelled to make a version of this comforting and beautifully colourful dish with the fond memory of every hearty bowl of Italian soup to pass my lips in years gone by. And I hope it does the original recipe justice.
This is perfect for lunch or dinner. In fact I recommend making a big batch at the beginning of the week and varying it slightly with different vegetables or toppings to eat it all week long. I always keep extra Parmesan rinds in the freezer just to throw into big pots of vegetable soup for added flavour, but you can always substitute it with a dollop of pesto in your bowl when you serve.
Pumpkin, Cavolo Nero and White Bean Soup
(inspired by Rachel Roddy)
If you don't have any cavolo nero, you can use kale or chard
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 leek, quartered and sliced
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
leaves from 4-5 thyme sprigs
2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
1 bay leaf
a good pinch of chilli flakes or a small dried chilli (optional)
1/2 pumpkin (I like the blue skinned ones) OR 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into bitesize pieces
1 400g tin of whole tomatoes with no juice / freshet tomatoes cut into pieces
rind from old piece of parmesan (optional)
1 jar/can cannellini/flageolet beans, rinsed
6-8 large cavolo nero leaves (or outer green leaves of savoy cabbage or kale), stripped of the centre rib
In a large soup pot gently sweat the chopped onion, leek, celery and carrot in 1 tbsp of olive oil. When softened, add thyme, rosemary and bay leaves and cook another minute or two.
Add the chopped pumpkin or butternut squash and season well with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes
Cover with vegetable stock or water and chuck in an old parmesan rind (I always keep them in the fridge for soup)
Simmer gently for 30-45 minutes until pumpkin has softened.
Roll the leaves of the cavolo nero into a cigar shape and thinly slice in to ribbons.
Add the rinsed beans and the cavolo nero to the pot and add a little more water if necessary. Cook for another 10 minutes. Top with a little grated Parmesan if you like