A couple of weeks ago, I got together with a couple of my favourite girlfriends. We had decided to celebrate the change of seasons and to take some much-needed time out to focus on Women's Stuff :) There was lot's of great conversation - some serious, and some just hilarious - and of course, lots of beautiful food. I always volunteer to be 'head cook' and the girls are always more than happy to let me go for it! We all bring our own 'gifts' to the equation ~ mine just happens to be yummy vego delights!!
Well - as you do when you get together with good friends, we laughed. A lot. We cackled like a bunch of witches, and we are in fact labelled the 'witchy women' by my friends partner. We even carved some pumpkins as a sort of therapeutic exercise, and in honour of what was technically halloween in Australia on that weekend. It was so much fun (I've never carved one before) and because it was a rainy, wet and cold weekend, they looked perfect by the fire...
So...in honour of our witchy weekend, I made what I have called Cauldron Soup, but which is really a kind of minestrone. It was soooo beautiful and comforting. Sadly, in all the excitement, I forgot to take a photo of the finished product. You'll have to use your imagination! May your winter be filled with many Winter Delights :)
Ingredients (serves 4-6 with some leftovers...hopefully!)
I 1 cup small pasta of your choice
I 1 can, or around 450g of cooked kidney or white beans
I I can of tomato soup (I prefer Heinz Big Red)
I 1 punnet of cherry or grape tomatoes ~ halved
I 1 large potato ~ peeled and diced
I 4 slices of Sanitarium ‘Bacon Style Rashers’ or ‘Smoked Deli Slice’ ~ cut into small pieces
I 1 large red onion ~ diced
I 1 large or 2 small zucchini ~ diced
I 2 cups of frozen peas
I 4 – 6 garlic cloves (depending on your taste…I like lots!) ~ crushed or chopped
I A handful of fresh thyme ~ chopped (or a tablespoon of dried)
I A large handful of fresh parsley ~ chopped
I A large handful of fresh basil ~ chopped
I 500 ml – 1 litre of chicken or veg flavoured stock (enough to cover ingredients in pot)
I Salt & pepper to taste
This recipe can be done 2 ways. If you have a slow cooker, begin preparing anywhere up to 6 or 8 hours early, and allow the slow cooker to do its thing. Otherwise, use a large pot with a heavy base (so it doesn’t stick). I’ll give instructions for both ways in the preparation section.
1. In a large frying pan, heat oil then fry up the onion and the Deli Slice for about 2 mins until they are both browning. Add potato and garlic and continue to fry for another 5-10 minutes, until the potatoes have a little bit of colour (this brings out the flavour).
2. If you’re using a slow cooker, add contents of frying pan to the slow cooker then add all other ingredients except the stock, frozen peas and salt. Pour in enough stock to just cover the ingredients. Set any leftover stock aside in case you need more later. Put the lid on and set the timer according to the time you have available (I usually set it on automatic, which heats to high then goes down low – leave it for about 4-6 hours – it will be cooked after 3 or 4). Add more stock after a couple of hours if needed.
3. If you’re not using a slow cooker, follow the steps above (adding a bit extra stock) and bring to the boil (stirring fairly often), then turn down low and simmer for ½ hour – 2 hours (it will be cooked after half an hour, but is always nice if left for a while to develop the flavours). Add more stock after 15 mins if needed.
4. One hour before you’re going to serve, add the frozen peas & stir, or boil them separately and add just prior to serving.
5. Just before serving, taste and add some salt if needed (don’t add earlier – it toughens the beans)
6. If you're not Vegan, you can add a little parmesan cheese. Serve alone or with some beautiful bread…enjoy!