Simple dinners + a weekday vegetable soup

01 May 2018

What are you having for dinner these days? We love pasta (this quick tuna pasta gets made every other week) but we've also been on the hunt for other quick meals. Here are two we've enjoyed recently:

Sweet potato tacos, which looks complicated by mainly involves roasting sweet potato with spices and making some quick pickles.

Mother-in-law salmon, made with pantry ingredients but fancy enough to serve to guests.

About once a month, I'll make a simple vegetable stock on a lazy Sunday. I use the pot we use to boil pasta (instead of our 20 litre stock pot!), and simmer it for as long as I can. It becomes a cheat's minestrone on Monday or Tuesday night, which usually lasts until Friday, when Tony will make something fancier for dinner.

The secret ingredient is... parmesan rinds, so hang onto them :)

A minestrone style soup for autumn 

For the stock, you'll need:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
An onion, quartered with skin still on
A carrot or two, roughly chopped
Two stalks of celery, roughly chopped
Any other uncooked veggies that you have lying around, such as potatoes, zucchini, cabbage, tomatoes, also roughly chopped
A small handful of parsley, with stalks
1-2 bay leaves
A few peppercorns

Here's how: 

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and then add your firm vegetables (such as onion, carrot, celery and potatoes). Cook for a couple of minutes until beginning to brown and then add any soft veggies you're using (like zucchini, tomatoes and cabbage).

Add any herbs, I usually use parsley, bay leaves and thyme, along with some peppercorns then fill the pot with cold water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 45 minutes.

Strain the mixture and then store it. My pot fills a big container for minestrone during the week, and fills a small container which is frozen for future meals (like this one-pot french onion pasta).

For the minestrone, you'll need:

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2-3 small potatoes, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped
A large pinch of chilli flakes, optional
1 zucchini, diced
1-2 tomatoes, diced, also optional
About 4-6 cups of vegetable stock
A 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2-4 tablespoons of pesto
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
A parmesan rind (or three)
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan, to serve

Here's how:

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, then add the onion and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the carrots, celery, potato and any other firm vegetables you're using and cook for another two or three minutes. Add the garlic and continue to fry for a minute, seasoning the mixture with salt, pepper and pinch of chilli flakes. Then add zucchini and tomatoes if using, and stir gently for a minute.

Add a tin of tomato, pesto, chopped parsley and stir. Then pour the vegetable stock over the mix and add the parmesan rind. Bring the soup to a gentle boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes.

To serve, remove the parmesan rind and season to taste. Serve with grated parmesan and crusty buttered bread. Or a grilled cheese toastie that's buttered on both sides :)

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