Monday, 13 August 2012

The Heart Of Italy - Minestrone

The best way to describe Italian soups is to call them hearty! The Italians combine fresh veggies with loads of nutritious beans flavoured with aromatic herbs and yummy cheese to make some extremely beautiful soups. Due to its unique origins and the absence of a fixed recipe, minestrone varies widely across Italy depending on traditional cooking times, ingredients, and season. Minestrone typically includes lots of leafy greens, other veggies, and beans. Which to choose? You're only limited by the contents of your refrigerator and pantry.

Whatever the recipe is, the overall flavour is pleasant and warming! It is jam-packed with goodness and will do anyone who eats it the world of good! You can either keep it hearty and chunky or you can cook the soup without the pasta in it, whiz it up in a blender, pour it back in the saucepan with some pasta and cook until the pasta is soft. Delicious! So go ahead and make one using the recipe given below. You will find all the required ingredients at any Nature’s Basket Store!

Serves: 6


·         1 tablespoon olive oil 
·         1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped 
·         1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped 
·         2 carrots, washed and chopped 
·         2 sticks celery, chopped
·         1 zucchini, chopped 
·         1 small leek, washed and chopped
·         ½ teaspoon dried oregano
·         1 bay leaf 
·         7-8 chopped plum tomatoes 
·         1 large potato, scrubbed and diced 
·         1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed & drained 
·         4 cups vegetable broth
·         ½ cup small pasta shapes
·         A bunch of basil
·         1/8 teaspoon sea salt 
·         A large pinch freshly ground black pepper 
·         5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


1.    Heat a large pot over a medium heat and add a lug of olive oil. Cook the garlic, onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, leek, oregano and bay leaf for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then, until the vegetables have softened.
2.    Add the tomatoes, potato, chick peas and vegetable broth, then cover with a lid and bring everything slowly to the boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes and then verify whether the potato has cooked through.
3.    Add the pasta and cook for 10 more minutes till it has softened. If the soup is too thick for you after cooking the pasta, thin it with a little more broth or water.
4.    Add chopped basil leaves into the soup. Finish by seasoning with a little salt, black pepper and grated parmesan.

The Soup of India

Soups originally evolved from peasant cookery and virtually every country has a national soup. National soups differ from country to country because of their ingredients and the influence of local food products.  All have their individual taste, aromas and historical backgrounds which reflect the gastronomic culture from which they originated.

The national soup of India is the Mulligatawny. Mulligatawny Soup was actually the anglicised version of the Tamil “Melligu -Thanir”. (“Melligu” means pepper and “Thanir” meaning water or rasam). As the name suggests it was originally just pepper in a watery soup.

The original Mulligatawny Soup can be traced back to the early days of the East India Company in Madras to around the 18th century. Supposedly, it was simply an invention to satisfy the British officers who demanded a soup course for dinner from a cuisine that had never produced one till then. The Tamil servants in those days concocted a stew like dish that contained pepper and water on the lines of their local Rasam. It was an interesting mix of East meets West, and was the nearest thing to soup in the cuisine of Colonial India.

Recipes for mulligatawny were quickly brought back to England by the British and its popularity spread throughout the country. It has made a lasting impression on British cuisine right down to the present day, though it has undergone many changes. It is now available even in cans in some stores in the UK. It is still an excellent “Comfort” dish on a cold rainy day and will surely lift the spirits when one is down in the dumps.

Mulligatawny Soup –


·         2 tbsp butter or olive oil
·         2 stalks celery, chopped
·         1 carrot, peeled and chopped
·         1 large onion, peeled and chopped
·         4 cups stock
·         1/4 cup red lentils
·         Salt and pepper to taste
·         1 tbsp curry powder or bullion/stock cube
·         1-2 cups cooked rice
·         1/2 cup raw apple, chopped fine


1.    Sauté the celery, carrots, onion, and pepper in the butter at a low heat until the onion is translucent.
2.    Stir in the curry powder to blend and cook for a minute.
3.    Pour in the stock, add the lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add apple and then puree in a blender. Strain the solids. Return to the pot, add salt and pepper.
4.   When ready to serve, bring the soup to a simmer and add the rice.

Slurp on Soups

Soup is the synonymous with comfort food. It is recognized as a wonderful soul warming food filled with wholesome ingredients and fantastic flavours. Soups are quite versatile and ideal as appetizers or starters, as a side dish, or as a one-pot meal. They make a wonderful addition to any meal, and once you make a pot or two, you'll discover it isn't really that hard to make. Final adjustments can be made before the soup hits the table. Some soups are finished with special sauces and garnishes, allowing each guest to create a dish that suits their particular taste.
High-quality stock is the backbone of any soup recipe. Although not difficult to make, stock does require a couple hours of cooking time, but the flavourful result is well worth the effort. Making stock also is a great way to use up items that would otherwise be thrown out, such as bones, shells, celery leaves, and carrot tops.
Here is an easy recipe for vegetable stock for you to try. Simply visit any of our stores and pick up all the essential ingredients –

Makes about 1L of stock

Time: 1 hour


·         1 tbsp olive oil
·         ½ onion, diced
·         ½ leek, diced
·         1 carrot, diced
·         3 garlic cloves, left whole and gently crushed
·         20 black peppercorns
·         8-10 button mushrooms
·         1 stick celery, diced
·         3 tomatoes, diced
·         3-4 fresh parsley stalks, roughly torn
·         2 Bay Leaves


1.      To make the vegetable stock, add the olive oil to a heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat.
2.      Add the onion, leek and carrot and sweat for 2-3 minutes.
3.      Add enough cold water to generously cover the vegetables and turn up the heat to high.
4.      Add the garlic, peppercorns, mushrooms, celery, tomatoes, bay leaves and parsley and stir together. Bring        to the boil and boil gently for 15 minutes.
5.      Pour the stock through a sieve. Discard the vegetable pieces or reserve for another use. The liquid stock is ready to be used. It can be stored in the fridge for up to three days or frozen in batches for future use.

Add this to any of your favourite savoury soups for a rich, intense flavour.
Godrej Nature’s Basket is celebrating the warming joy of soups from all over the world, all this month. Watch this space for loads of soupy tricks & recipes and be sure to follow us on facebook & twitter as well!