Recipe: Chunky minestrone soup

It’s been way too long since I posted a recipe, something I promise to remedy in the coming months. Starting today with a really simple, healthy one for a substantial soup.

Minestrone is an easy way to get a good helping of vegetables into your diet. Use all your favourites and create a tailor-made bowl of goodness.

For me the key is to get the tomato-richness right, which is why I’ve added a tin of chopped tomatoes and passata to my dish. And don’t forget the herbs. I used fresh thyme today as I have a big pot of it flourishing on my kitchen counter. I think oregano would also be great.

This recipe is quick and easy to make, just make sure you don’t over cook the veg and pasta. It doesn’t take a lot of cooking. It also freezes well so make a big batch and you’ll have more dinners waiting for you.

minestrone

Rich, tasty and full of goodness

Makes 4 large portions

2 tbsps olive oil

6 baby leeks, chopped

3 sticks of celery, chopped

4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

1 large handful fresh thyme, chopped

1 tin butter beans, drained and rinsed

1 tin chopped tomatoes

4 tbsps passata

300ml beef stock

300ml water

Grind of black pepper

100g macaroni

1 cup of peas

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Fry the leeks, celery, carrots and thyme for 15 mins until softened.

Add the drained beans, tomatoes and passata and stir well together.

Add the stock and water and some black pepper.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 2o mins.

Add the macaroni and peas. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and simmer for another 20 mins.

Keep an eye on the liquid content, you may need to add a little more water if you think it’s becoming too dry. But remember this is supposed to be a substantial, chunky soup.

Serve with fresh bread.

Liven up water with an Aqua Zinger

Water makes up 60% of our body weight. It’s important for flushing out toxins, carries nutrients to your cells and keeps the tissue in your ears, nose and throat moist. Okay, all important stuff but I do wish I didn’t feel like I was always being lectured to drink more of it…and battling to succeed.

Requirements depend on a raft of factors, including your sex, age, weight, exercise regime, even the weather. A lot of studies say that men should aim for three litres and women 2.2 litres daily. That’s eight (fairly large) glasses for women, which I find quite a challenge especially in  cooler weather when I’m inactive, sitting at my computer for a large part of the day.

A  recent study from Harvard claims these quantities aren’t based on any science (did someone just make them up then?) and four to six glasses is plenty. And they agree certain foods like melons, spinach, lettuce and soup can help provide hydration. Other fluids also count – bring on the tea!

I guess you just need to listen to your body and be aware if you start feeling dehydrated. I notice a difference in the elasticity my skin and also can become more lethargic and get more headaches if my intake’s not up there. So I’m always looking for ways to make the whole water-drinking process more exciting.

And here it is – my new Aqua Zinger water bottle, an easy way to add fruity freshness and flavour to your H2O. Chop up your favourite fruit, unscrew the base of the bottle, add your choice and screw it back in place. The little blades will lightly mush your fruit as you tighten it. Fill the bottle with water, screw the lid on securely, shake and leave to infuse. Obviously the longer you leave it the more flavoursome your drink will become. I leave it to infuse in the fridge so it chills at the same time.

20386

Berries create lovely water, think blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, individually or mixed together – try different quantities and mixes to create your personal favourite. I’m very fond of a strawberry mint combo.

berries

Lemons, limes and oranges all liven things up, even try all three at once. Cucumber adds a deliciously refreshing touch. Or try peaches, pears or apples…and how about a touch of fresh ginger. The choices are huge, just let your imagination run free.

20385

Love the vibrancy and aromas of citrus fruits – perfect for creating a drink with zing.

th

The bottle is vacuum insulated, so keeps drinks hot or cold,  is portable, easy to clean (it looks pretty, too) and costs £22.95 . Find out more at www.prezzybox.com

Recipe: Spicy tomato soup

We’re coming to the end of British Tomato Week, so I thought I’d finish off with a classic that I’ve  spiced up – fresh tomato soup with a bit of a bite. I used plum tomatoes on the vine, the aromas while I was preparing them was amazing!

You could add chilli, too, but be careful that it doesn’t overpower the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Plum_tomatoes

Beautiful plum tomatoes

Spicy tomato soup

soup

Comforting, spicy and tomatoey sweet

Serves 4

800g tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2 onions, peeled and chopped

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp chopped fresh ginger

1 tsp garam masala

200ml water

400g coconut milk

Fry the onions in the vegetable oil until softened.

Add the garam masala and ginger and fry for 10 mins.

Add the tomatoes, reserving two to add later, and stir through.

Add the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 mins.

Add the coconut milk and stir through. Simmer for another 10 mins on low for flavours to mix.

Blend until the soup is smooth.

Add the remaining tomatoes and and simmer on low for another five so they heat through.

Serve with crusty bread.

Top tip: To peel tomatoes easily, place in a large bowl, pour boiling water over them and leave for a minute or two. Take a knife and insert into the skin, it should come away at once, making it easy to remove.

logo

Find out more at www.britishtomatoes.co.uk

Recipe: Tomato, watermelon and peach salsa

Could summer be here at last? The sun is out and I am happy, gotta love that blue sky. So here’s something light and refreshing to try, a zesty mix of fruit and tomato with a hint of mint.

This sweet and tangy salsa is great served alongside spicy dishes like curries, with grilled pork or chicken or for something different as a vegetarian starter that will get your taste buds tingling.

salsa

A summery dish that looks and tastes beautiful

Makes a decent portion to share between two.

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

2 peaches, destoned and chopped into bite-size pieces

A large slice of watermelon, enough for about 12 bite-size pieces

A handful of fresh mint

Mix all the ingredients together and allow to stand for at least an hour before eating.

logoFind out more at  www.britishtomatoes.co.uk

Recipes: The best roast cherry tomatoes

Roasting sweet cherry tomatoes intensifies their sweetness and flavour and you can keep them in the fridge for up to a week. Spread on sandwiches, toss in salads, add to stews or even snack on straight from the fridge. Yum!

I cook them on a low temperature for about an hour, you can also do it overnight, like my friend Candy does. Here are two roads to fabulous roast cherry tomatoes.

22333_1

Bring on the cherry tomatoes

600g cherry tomatoes, halved

4 whole cloves of garlic, unpeeled

2 tsps dried thyme

1 tsp white sugar

4 tbsps olive oil

Heat the oven to 140C.

Place the tomatoes and garlic in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with the sugar and thyme and pour over the olive oil.

Roast for about an hour (keeping an eye on them), until they are shrivelled but not dried out.

Eat immediately or allow to cool and store in the fridge for later.

cherrytoms

Chopped and sprinkled with olive oil and thyme

The overnight method

This way you can wake up to beautiful roast tomatoes!

Preheat the oven to 240C.

Place all the ingredients on a baking sheet and place it in the oven.

Turn the oven off and leave the tomatoes in overnight (approximately 8 hours).

Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

roasted-cherry-tom-1

Sweet and juicy and ready to eat

logo

Find out more at www.britishtomatoes.co.uk

Recipe: Tomato, pea and ham tortilla

Here’s my recipe for day three of British Tomato Week. Enjoy.

I love a Spanish omelette (tortilla). The fabulous potato, egg and onion base lends itself to endless additions, it’s the perfect dish to get creative with.

This one has plenty of stuff in it, so will make a substantial meal and it’s topped with halved cherry tomatoes, making it look bright and beautiful.

Tortilla is a wonderfully portable snack and tastes great cold and hot, so make a big one and you’ll have plenty of delicious leftovers to savour.

Tomato, pea and ham tortilla

Serves 4 as a meal

tortilla3

The beautiful tortilla ready to serve

400g potatoes, peeled and cut into 5cm slices

150g fresh peas

4 tbsps vegetable oil

1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

6 large eggs

4 tbsps fresh parsley, chopped

200g cooked hock of ham, shredded

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the potatoes and return to the boil. Simmer for about 5 mins until the potatoes are starting to soften. Drain and set aside.

Heat 2 tbsps of the oil in a 25cm non-stick frying pan, add the onion and cook for 5 mins. Add the garlic and cook for another 3-4 mins until the onion is soft.

Add the potatoes and peas and fry, stirring gently for about another 10 mins.

Meantime beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the parsley and ham and mix through.

Pour the egg mixture into the other ingredients in the frying pan. Make sure it is spread out evenly.

Dot the halved tomatoes evenly on top.

Cook on the hob on a low heat for 10-15 mins until the base is set.

Meantime preheat the grill and place the pan under it. Continue cooking until the top is set and golden brown.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan and gently tip the tortilla onto a plate.

Serve with a salad.

tortilla1

The tortilla cooks on the stove top while the bottom sets

tortilla2

Finished off under the grill it comes out golden brown

logo

 

To find out more about tomatoes, visit www.britishtomatoes.co.uk