“A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting” – Abraham Maslow
When I was growing up in Malaysia, I remember western restaurants in Kuala Lumpur would invariably have minestrone and oxtail soup on their menus. I have never been fond of minestrone as I perceived it a little boring with just vegetables and would always opt for the oxtail soup.
Perhaps what was intriguing were people tucking into these soups which are more appropriate for winter in temperate countries rather than in a hot and humid tropical place like Malaysia.
Winter is descending upon us Down-Under and when the weather turns cooler each season, I look forward to trying some new winter-warmers. During our recent trip to the Southern Highlands, the log fire in our cabin inspired me to seek out some heart-warming soup made with some roasted vegetables like pumpkin, potatoes and some smoked bones. The result was a delicious soup with smoky aromas from the bones and roasted vegetables.
Minestrone is an Italian style soup that literally means ‘big soup’ and is usually made with carrots, celery, onions, beans and tomato.
I don’t believe there is a precise recipe for minestrone. One thing I have found that adds tremendous flavour to this soup is to start with a meaty piece of smoked pork hock. Prior to my new-found love with a meaty minestrone, I have never given much thought to cooking with these smoked cuts as I haven’t come across a recipe that seemed delicious enough for me to try.
The smoked pork hock is vacuum packed and usually comes with the rind around the meat. Firstly, remove the rind, excess fat by dicing it into small pieces.
Sautee these small bits of rind and fat with just a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil adds beautiful smoky flavours to a hearty winter soup.
Smoked pork hock minestrone
- 1 kg smoked pork hock
- 2 – 3 carrots, finely diced
- 5 – 6 stalks celery, finely diced
- 1 large brown onion, finely diced
- 1 can borlotti beans
- 2 – 3 ripened tomatoes
- 1 cup of green peas
- 1 litre chicken stock and add water to adjust thickness of soup to your liking
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- Remove rind and excess fat from smoked pork hock and dice into very fine bits.
- Sautee the diced rind and fat with a small drizzle of EVOO in a large stock pot until fragrant and crispy. Then add the diced onions, celery, carrots and sautee until the vegetables are slightly soft and fragrant.
- Add the smoked pork hock to the vegetables and pour in approximately 1 – 2 litres of chicken stock and water until the ingredients are submerged and then gently simmer for about two hours until the meat from the pork hock is soft and falling off the bone.
- Add diced tomatoes, borlotti beans and gently stir until all the ingredients are mixed together. Simmer for another twenty minutes until tomatoes are soft, then stir in peas and serve immediately.
Serves: 6 – 8 people
- You can also use water / a cube of chicken stock instead of fresh chicken stock because the pork hock and vegetables are quite flavoursome when cooked.
- Going through the extra step to sautee the diced pork rind and fat until it is crispy and fragrant will add layers of flavour to your soup.
- Be careful not to add too much salt / chicken cube stock as the smoked pork hock already has some good flavours.
- Other ingredients that can be added include diced zucchini, potatoes and soup pasta (for a thicker and more robust soup).
- Personally, I love this soup with a drizzle of Tabasco sauce with each spoonful.
- For added texture, my favourite accompaniment for this minestrone is slices of crispy baked cheese croutons (slices of French baguette topped with cheddar and parmesan then baked until golden brown and crispy).
- This soup can be kept good frozen for a simple and convenient meal whenever reheated.
This is a hearty winter warmer that is a meal in itself if you add some soup pasta to it and have it with some fresh bread or sourdough.
So dear readers, what is your favourite winter soup?
Click on any of the photos to view ChopinandMysaucepan‘s favourite recipes or simply click here.