Let me say one thing of November, now that it’s over… Phew! In the temporary insanity of deadlines week at college and the twilight zone of freelance design work there wasn’t a lot of time for cooking. Even when I did manage to cook (tried and tested recipes mostly, and usually late at night), there was not a lot of time for photos, much less to sit down and write about the chocolate orange clafoutis, the rhubarb jalousie or the fifteen litres of pasta sauce that we made. Wouldn’t it be nice to pick up some extra time along with your groceries? I think it would live near the energy-saving light bulbs or more appropriately, in the aisle with the coffee.
I must say, it is odd sometimes to live in the other hemisphere. I’ve never seen snow and I’ve never tried eggnog, but you guys are making me crave cinnamon buns and warm scarves, and I don’t even like winter! It is summer here in Australia, there are cherries and blueberries in my fridge just waiting to be turned into something delicious, if they are not all gobbled up in the meantime.
The days are longer, but the weather has a surprising unpredictable-ness. Yesterday morning I was walking in North Sydney, finding myself smiling when a fellow pedestrian talked to me at the traffic lights about the trees we had found shade under. Just hours later I sat at the window watching the rain and hearing the thunder, but what I noticed most was the smell – absolute purity. I took great pleasure looking outside while chopping up vegetables, knowing that the soup I was making was the absolute perfect match to the weather we were having.
This is the chunkiest soup I’ve ever seen. It is more like a slightly ‘juicy’ risotto with pasta than an actual soup, which is great because each spoonful (I ate it with a fork actually) gives you different colours and textures. The slightly crunch of the celery is nicely offset against the perfectly cooked pasta. The hearty chunks of chicken team well with the slinky spinach. You know how I love versatility, so all of you Northern Hemispherers can throw in some butternut squash or potatoes for a comforting winter meal.
Chunky Chicken and Vegetable Soup
Adapted from October Australian Gourmet Traveller
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 5 slices shortcut bacon, diced
• 1 onion, diced
• 2 carrots, diced
• 2 celery stalks, diced
• 3 chicken breasts, diced
• 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
• ½ cup white wine
• 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
• 3 cups chicken stock
• 1 – 1 ¼ cup small pasta such as risoni
• 1 large zucchini, diced
• 1 x 400g can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
• 50g baby spinach leaves (optional)
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsely
• Finely grated parmesan and fresh crusty bread, to serve
1. Heat olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat, add bacon and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally
2. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook until slightly softened.
3. Add chicken and garlic and continue to stir until chicken becomes opaque.
4. Add wine, tomato and stock, and season to taste with salt and cracked black pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add the pasta, zucchini and beans, stir to combine. Increase the heat again to medium high and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until pasta is al dente.
6. Remove from the heat and stir in parsley and spinach, if using.
7. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately with parmesan cheese, more cracked black pepper and bread.