On a fine winter's day, after sweeping leaves, digging weeds and doing some pruning, the gardener comes indoors invigorated but hungry. Toast with avo and a banana just won't fill the bill.
Time for a lunchtime bowl of minestrone at the local Italian Continental Bakery in Mawson.
Jo d'Ambrosio, whose family is from Napoli, has been cooking minestrone for customers in Mawson for 33 years. It is served between 11.30am and 2.30pm, either takeaway or sit down (distanced). It is always warm and busy indoors but there is a new deck on Mawson Place which looks good for a spot of winter sunshine.
The ingredients in Jo's soup vary every week. There might be flat beans, dried beans, lentils, tomatoes or, from the d'Ambrosio home garden, broccoli, onions, celery, snow peas, green beans and parsley. At home, tortellini with a piece of chicken inside each piece of pasta, is often added to the minestrone. She uses an Italian stock cube and Parmesan rind is always added during the cooking. To serve, grated Parmesan tops the soup which comes with a house-made white roll.
Jo's partner, Rav, makes all the cakes and amaretti and these include some popular treats like Torta caprese (chocolate and almond) and a Neapolitan specialty with ricotta and candied fruit.
Making minestrone is a pleasure for any cook, and those who eat it. A friend of mine uses a recipe by Marcella Hazan, Minestrone alla Romagnola, and he includes a tin of Mutti finely chopped Italian tomatoes enjoyed for the taste as well as the design of the can. (I am usually an Ardmona tomatoes woman but they are in short supply so it was helpful to find the Mutti brand at Woolworths.) Hazan says pasta is often added to the soup in the south of Italy (and she uses ditalini "small thimbles" pasta), while in the north they sometimes add rice.
On the Monaro, Laine Lawson makes minestrone to a family recipe she first tasted in about 1956. It started with Laine's aunt, Griselda Guinand who, she says, "was an adventurous and exciting cook at a time when meat and three veg was the Australian norm. As the wife of a sophisticated winemaker she entertained a lot. The recipe has been modified over the past 60 years by Griselda's daughter, my nationally acclaimed artist cousin Marie Hobbs. Marie also shared recipes with an Italian friend whose father had cooked for Mussolini and it was she who suggested the taking out and mashing of the whole potato."
A fortnight ago, Laine made the minestrone using homegrown vegetables including Dutch cream potatoes, courgette, tomatoes and parsley. Savoy cabbage was finely sliced, and the large potato was peeled, the others just scrubbed. You can vary the vegetables and she added a stray parsnip which added nutty sweetness. Across Canberra, keen kitchen gardeners are harvesting the first firm heads of their broccoli plants, so do add that.
Plant pest cards giveaway
There were lots of entries in our giveaway (Kitchen Garden, May 19) and here are the winners and the pests they nominated: Sigrid Horner of Deakin (snails and possums) cards for boys who go to Trinity Christian School; Drewe Just of Campbell (white butterfly on broccoli and cabbage); Pat Tandy of O'Connor (fruit fly and gummosis in fruit trees); Pamela Fawke of Dunlop (black aphid and cut worms) share with Landcare Group; Kaethe Jordan of Weetangera (citrus stink bug), for grandchildren at Campbell Primary.
1 ham bone
2 cloves garlic
1 good sized carrot
1 good sized zucchini
1 cup cabbage
1 celery stick
3 medium-sized potatoes
1 tin crushed tomatoes or 1 cup fresh skinned tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tin any white beans
1 cup peas
parmesan cheese and parsley to garnish
1. Chop all the vegetables into small cubes of equal size, except for one potato which must be left whole. Cover with water and cook in a slow oven or a slow cooker for approximately three hours, (gently simmering, not boiling) or until the whole potato is soft. Stir every so often.
2. Add the peas towards the end of the cooking time to preserve their colour. Add salt and pepper according to taste. When all the vegetables are thoroughly cooked, remove the whole potato, mash, and stir back in to thicken the soup.
3. Serve with a generous spoonful of parmesan cheese and an equally generous sprinkle of parsley.
Note: the ham bone can be any size you can buy, the aim being to have tiny little bites of ham.
It is best to add the cabbage to cook in the last hour to retain a bit of texture, but it doesn't really matter.