Friday, November 21, 2008

Minestra di Zucca (Pumpkin & Bean Soup)

I missed the warm weather that teased us last week. It tricked us into barbecuing and drinking beer as if it were summer already. But this evening it hasn't stopped raining and my little cat and I felt stuck inside on the couch, watching bad movies on TV, half reading a new book. The thing that set this evening right was soup - and once I'd thought of it, I was glad for the rain. 

This is an Italian vegetable soup I've made many times since coming across it in delicious. a few years ago and it's the easiest to put together. A sofritto of pumpkin, leek and celery makes a sweet and flavorsome base to which you add good vegetable stock, then let the pot simmer away. When the vegetables are tender, you simply throw in a can of lentils and a can of cannellini beans and puree or blend to the consistency you like best; I like mine thick and chunky. The beans and lentils give the soup a hearty dimension, and a bowl of this with a thick slice of buttered sourdough is the most comforting and satisfying meal. Serve with a good grinding of pepper, and if you're feeling austere, a swirl of fresh cream. After this, the rain doesn't seem so bad after all. 

Minestra di Zucca (Pumpkin & Bean Soup)
adapted from delicious. May 2005

600g pumpkin, peeled & cut into pieces
2 large leeks, (white ends only) chopped
3 large celery stalks, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 good-quality vegetable stock cube
400g canned lentils, drained
200g canned cannellini beans, drained
thickened cream, to serve

Add olive oil, pumpkin, leeks and celery to a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Fry gently, stirring until vegetable soften and begin to look sticky. 

Add the vegetable stock with 1.25 litres of water and bring to the boil. Return heat to low and simmer gently for around an hour. 

Add the lentils and beans and season with salt and pepper. Using a stick mixer (or transfer to a blender) puree to desired consistency. If it seems too thick, add a little more water and taste again for salt. Serve with a swirl of cream and fresh pepper. 

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