It's been a funny old week. It may be the start of summer here but, with torrential rain and heavy flooding in many parts of Nelson, it's felt rather more like winter. Many families in our city had to be evacuated from their homes, either because of flooding or because of danger from hillside slips. Thankfully, we live high enough on a hill to escape flooding and were lucky enough not to be subjected to any slips either. A special thanks also to so many of you for your kind thoughts and concerns for my safety - your thoughtfulness never ceases to warm my heart and is a constant reminder of the joys of belonging to this food blogging "family".
So, after all that rain something warming, nourishing and comforting seemed to be called for, but at the same time I wasn't wanting anything too heavy. When I came across this recipe for Spring Ministrone in Super Natural Cooking (one of my favourite cookbooks) by Heidi Swanson it seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I also knew that this would be perfect for my contribution this week to Cookbook Sundays (read more about that at the end of this post).
For this soup brown rice is cooked in a light vegetable broth, with spring vegetables (I used asparagus, zucchini, and peas) added right at the end, so that the vegetables are still bright green and crispy. I made a pesto from some spinach and rocket (arugula) I'd harvested from my garden, and topped the soup with a generous dollop of that, along with some freshly grated lemon zest and shaved pecorino cheese.
I know that there are amongst you those who love soup and could eat it (or should that be drink it) just about every day of the week. I am not such a person. I don't mind a bowl of soup now and again, but you know maybe 6-8 bowls of soup in the whole year is probably about my fix. It is not something I would ever order in a restaurant, unless of course it's an Asian restaurant of some sort, in which case there is a very strong possibility that I would order the noodle or wonton soup. This doesn't count as one of the 6-8 bowls of soup previously mentioned, as I think of this as noodles, not soup - those are the rules! My other soup rule is that I almost never have soup in summer.
Now, I've got to say this .... this soup just broke all of my soup rules. This is quite possibly the best soup I've ever tasted - at least, the best one that I've ever made, and you know what? This soup is definitely going to have me exceeding my annual soup quota - in fact there is a good chance I'll exceed that before the week is out. This is a soup that I could really eat every single day - of course, things like asparagus and fresh peas won't be around for much longer, but I will be making the most of it while they're still here.
The nuttiness and chewiness of the brown rice gives that little bit of "comfort factor" and enough substance to be able to make a meal out of this. The crisp, green vegetables provide a lovely textural balance to the rice, while the hit of fresh lemon and fragrant pesto keeps the spring-like freshness in this dish.
Of course, you could swap out the vegetables I used with all sorts of other alternatives: green beans, snow peas, broad beans, artichoke hearts, edamame, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy. Just keep it green would be my mantra here - save the carrots, pumpkin, corn, etc, for something else. I urge you to try it - I know you won't be disappointed.
"End of Spring" Ministrone with Rocket, Spinach & Walnut Pesto
Adapted from a recipe by Heidi Swanson from
Makes 4 generous servings
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
For the soup:
2x tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2x shallots, thinly sliced
1x garlic clove, minced
1x cup brown rice, rinsed
6x cups vegetable stock
2x zucchini, thinly sliced
8x asparagus spears, cut on the diagonal into 2.5 cm (1 in) lengths
1x cup freshly shelled green peas (frozen is fine too)
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
For the pesto:
3x large handfuls of rocket (arugula) & spinach leaves
1x large handful of toasted walnut pieces
2x cloves garlic
extra virgin olive oil (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
flaky sea salt
freshly grated zest of 1x lemon
pecorino cheese, freshly shaved
Begin with the soup. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan, and saute for a couple of minutes until the shallots have softened and the garlic is fragrant. Add the rice, and cook for a minute, stirring constantly until every grain of rice is coated in the oil. Now add the stock to the pan, bring up to the boil, then cover the pan with a lid, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 to 45 minutes until the rice is tender.
Meanwhile make the pesto. Put the walnuts, rocket, spinach, garlic and salt into a food processor and pulse until the leaves and nuts start to break down. Then leaving the motor running, begin to add the oil in a steady stream until you have a smooth paste. Remove to a bowl, stir in the grated pecorino, taste and add a little more salt if necessary. Set aside.
Now back to the soup. Once the rice is tender, add the vegetables and season generously with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Simmer for just 2 or 3 minutes, so that the vegetables are still bright green and crisp, add freshly grated lemon zest, and serve immediately.
Ladle into bowls, add some fresh shavings of pecorino cheese to each bowl, and top each with a generous dollop of the pesto.
Earlier I mentioned Cookbook Sundays. What is that all about, you are perhaps wondering. Well, if you're anything like me you have dozens of cookbooks gathering dust on your bookshelves, some of which have never even been cooked from. Sure I spent hours browsing through them when I first bought them, marking all the recipes I was going to make with little post-it notes, and yet still those books languish in the bookcase and never make it to the kitchen. There are others from which I have made but one recipe which was such a resounding success that I've made it over and over again, and yet somehow I've never made anything else from that book. Sound a bit familiar?!
Take comfort - you are not alone, and now Cookbook Sundays is your opportunity to change that. Every Sunday I'm going to share with you a recipe that I haven't made before from one of my ever expanding collection of cookbooks. And, because I know that if you have read this far then you are guilty of this too, I'm inviting you to join in with me. Each week my Cookbook Sundays post will have a linky for you to share something you've cooked from one of your cookbooks.
The rules for joining in are simple:
- Your post must state the author and the title of the book your recipe has come from.
- Your post must mention Cookbook Sundays and link back to this post. Including the Cookbook Sundays badge is optional, but always appreciated.
- You may submit as many entries as you like, and you may use the same cookbook as many times as you like. Old posts are also welcome.
- Lastly, remember that what goes around, comes around - one of the reasons you are participating in this is because you want people to read your posts, so do the right thing and go and visit a few of the other participants.
Now, go and dust off those cookbooks and get cooking! Use the linky tool at the end of this post to submit your entry/entries - simply scroll down to where it says "You are next ... Click here to enter", and then follow the instructions. The linky will be open for one week.
Lastly, if you would like to use the Cookbook Sundays badge in your post, simply copy the code in the box beside the badge below and paste it into your post. Feel free to also use it in your sidebar if you wish.