I was explaining to E about the blog event I thought my meal would be perfect for:
J: I thought I would do this meal for the Heart of the Matter blog event. The theme is quick and easy. Does 30 minutes count as quick?
E: I would be more inclined to think 10-15 minutes.
J: Is 30 minutes quick for me?
E refused to answer on the grounds that he is not about to bite the hand that feeds him.
I’ve seen the 10 minute vegetable challenge on the Great Big Vegetable Challenge and there are some great dishes being generated to help freddy eat his vegies. But it isn’t my sort of thing. Most of the dishes have only one or two vegetables and that isn’t enough for me.
So I was thinking about my criteria for quick and easy and thought it would be:
1. Maximum thirty minutes preparation time – no more – ie. The sort of meal where I am saying to E to set the table because dinner will be ready in minutes, rather than him hanging around the kitchen asking when dinner will be ready and I am telling him it is another hour.
2. Doesn’t use a lot of dishes – well if you are pushed for time you don’t want to spend all night doing the washing up – might be different for those with a dishwasher.
3. Uses simple ingredients – no running off to the store for that essential ingredient that you’ve never seen before.
4. But it has to have lots of vegetables and some protein so it feels healthy – if we were only interested in speed we could easily buy a frozen dinner from the supermarket and stick it in the microwave.
5. There should be leftovers at the end to be eaten the next night or put in the freezer – after all the quickest and easiest meals are reheating leftovers.
So tonight I made a simple soup with ingredients that are always at hand in my house. Soup is such a great dish to use up leftovers and the odd bits of vegetable hanging around in the fridge. And soup doesn’t haven to be attended to every single minute. I think I spent about 15-20 minutes preparation and had some time while it bubbled away for me to potter about and get other things done. The whole point of quick and easy meals for Heart of the Matter is to provide recipes that are kind to those who are so bound up in Christmas preparations and parties that they are struggling to find time to make a meal.
The recipe I based the soup on seems to go by the name of Cucina Rustica Tomato Bread Soup and I think comes from the Florence region. I did a quick search on the net to find out more but the web was not forthcoming and the best I could find was a few pages from Frommer’s Italy from 90c a Day which described it as part of the ‘hearty Tuscan peasant soup’. I like the description. But I needed more vegetables in mine.
I have written below what I did but, as usual, it is a guide, not the gospel. I liked this recipe because I had been hoarding odd ends of dense sourdough loaves in the freezer and finally could use them up in a way that showcased them (rather than the breadcrumbs I had attempted earlier this week only to find they were too tough for my food processor). You could put any vegetables in here – other vegetables that might work well would be green peas, corn, pumpkin, spinach etc etc. I was thinking olives might be nice in it too. It was good, fresh, healthy fare.
So this post is being sent to Ilva of Lucullian Delights who is hosting the Heart of the Matter this month. I look forward to seeing the other recipes and learning from others who are quicker than me! Check out the round up here.
Vegetable and Stale Bread Soup
1 onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, sliced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1 cup water
100g tofu (chopped) or small tin of chickpeas or other legumes
100m oatmeal gravy or 1 tbsp soy sauce
1½ - 2 tsp stock powder
⅛ large cabbage, shredded
1 x 400g tin of diced tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2½ cups water
½ medium zucchini, diced
½ large red pepper, diced
10-12 button mushrooms, sliced
4 stalks asparagus, chopped small
2-3 tbsp grated cheese (preferably parmesan but I used light tasty)
*4 cups diced stale bread (preferably sourdough)
freshly ground black pepper
few drops Tabasco sauce (optional)
*If your bread is not stale, I suggest leaving some pieces out on the benchtops while you are running about at work or Christmas shopping all day! (Or wait until a day when your bread is stale and needs to be used.)
In a large stockpot, heat a little water and begin to add the ingredients down the list up to the tin of tomatoes, and keep the heat up on medium to high so the contents are kept at a simmer as much as possible. The time taken to chop vegetables as I went was about 10 minutes. Now simmer another 10 minutes and continue chopping the rest of the vegetables. Then add the additional water and zucchini, pepper and mushrooms. Simmer 5 minutes. Add asparagus and simmer an additional 5 minutes.
The soup should be quite watery so it will soak into the bread. Add bread and cheese and Tabasco and stir into soup and serve. (If you want leftovers only add bread and cheese to those dishes you are serving and when you serve leftovers add bread and cheese then.)
On the stereo:
Chakra Suite: Steven Halpern