Mia and I went to visit my mum last week; the first time we've seen her since the end of January. Mia is vegetarian so mum had kindly bought lots of veg-based goodies to eat and also gave Mia this gorgeous cook book - 15 minute vegan by Katy Beskow. Mia has been doing lots of cooking during lockdown so I'm sure this will be well used.
I flicked through it on Friday night and the minestrone recipe caught my eye, then when in the veg garden on Saturday morning I realised I had many of the ingredients so decided there and then to make it for lunch. I can confirm it is super quick and so fresh and full of the flavours of summer. Read on for the recipe but first a little background to our lockdown 'no-dig' veg plot.
As I'm sure is true for many people during lockdown, this is the first year we have grown so many vegetables. Right at the start we decided to create a vegetable garden and researched on You Tube how best to do it. We spent many a happy evening watching Charles Dowding's You Tube videos learning about 'no-dig' gardening - I know right - how brilliant! Here's a link to his website so you can find out more.
We chose 'no-dig' for speed (and let's face it ease), Charles made it look so simple. You build a frame on the ground and load soil or compost straight onto the grass which eventually rots away. We had a few persistent thistles and buttercups growing through from the pasture but they were actually a pleasure to pull out!
(The picture at top left was taken on 3rd April, bottom left on 22nd May and bottom right on the 18th of July.)
The other thing we found really helpful in planning our plot layout was an online Vegetable Garden Planner called GrowVeg. You can use it to design the layout of your garden and also to journal what you plant and harvest when. We have one bed of brassicas (cauliflower, kohl rabi, brussel sprouts, radish, cabbage and kale); one of legumes (french beans, broad beans, peas) and potatoes; a third with onions, garlic and root crops such as carrots, parsnips and turnips; and a final bed with sweetcorn, courgettes, squash, beetroot and salad leaves. We've been harvesting for a couple of weeks now but it is only now that the legumes are coming into their own. For the minestrone I used a mix of fresh peas and broad beans and I substituted rocket for watercress. Read on for the recipe...
Summer veg plot minestrone
Heat a tablespoon of sunflower oil in a pan over a medium heat and add a chopped onion and 100g of asparagus tips. Cook for two minutes, then add a chopped medium courgette (I used a yellow one as that's what I had) and 2 chopped celery sticks. Add 300ml of hot vegetable stock (I used a shop-bought cube for ease).
Add a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes and 2tsp of dried mixed herbs (I used a blend with thyme, marjoram and oregano). At this point you can add 30g of dried spaghetti (or if you happen to have some leftover cooked spaghetti in your fridge like I did you can add that at the end instead just to heat through).
Cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the 3 tablespoons of frozen or fresh peas depending on what you have available. Go off piste and add some broad beans or chopped runner beans too or instead if you like. I used two handfuls of rocket instead of watercress as that is what I had and they both have a peppery flavour.