I have many a fond memory of walking into our home after a long day at school and being welcomed by the amazing aromas being conjured up by my mother’s cooking. It wasn’t until I left home that I realised that not every family had these same experiences and joy around food, every day of the week.
I was lucky to be born into a home where my mother was a fantastic cook and my father loved gardening. Very often, we would eat a whole meal that was supplied by the fruits of my father’s and mother’s labour.
When it came time to caring for my own family, I didn’t end up with a green thumb! But I do enjoy cooking delicious, nutritious meals for them.
My parents are both Italian; my father was from Northern Italy and my mother from Southern Italy and so we experienced cuisine from both parts of the country. Many dishes were common or similar but there were a few dishes that were unique to each region of Italy.
What they did have in common, was meals that included seasonal vegetables in simple dishes cooked over a few hours: slow cooking without the slow cooker!
I have many a fond memory of walking into our home after a long day at school and being welcomed by the amazing aromas being conjured up by my mothers cooking. It wasn’t until I left home that I realised that not every family had these same experiences and joy around food, every day of the week. As kids, we probably took our meals for granted and didn’t realise what we had… until I had to provide food for myself, and then for my own family.
Hence my quest for the easiest, quickest and most nutritious meals I could conjure up for the family.
Throughout my adult life I have been exposed to many ideas on the ‘best’ way to eat for a long and healthy life. And when I started studying Chinese Medicine, new ideas and foods came into my world.
I love the concept behind Chinese Dietary Therapy – particularly the idea of eating in season.
Sounds simple… but take a walk through any supermarket today, and you are bombarded with all sorts of amazing-looking fruits and vegetables that have come from all corners of the earth – at any time of the year. I mean, eating watermelon and cherries in the middle of winter is not something I can remember even being an option when I was a kid.
So now, as we come into Spring, the question to ask is… what’s in season, and how can I use these fruits and/or vegetables in the quickest, easiest and most nutritious way?
From a Chinese Medicine perspective, spring is an exciting season of change, growth and energy coming out of the restful and quiet winter. It is also the time for the Liver and Gall Bladder organs, and one of the best ways to nurture these organs is to eat green leafy seasonal vegetables that are cooked, warm and easily digestible.
This recipe is just one answer to this question and is one that I love making… it’s quick, easy, nutritious, delicious and reminds me of my mum: Vegetale di Nonna Rita (Nonna Rita’s Vegetable soup).
When people think of Italian soups, many think of Minestrone. I love minestrone and I have made many a pot of minestrone for my family, especially in winter. It is hearty and full of good, wholesome vegetables and legumes. However, it takes a while to make, and I find when it gets to the end of winter my body no longer wants this but still needs something that is warm, nutritious and lighter.
This vegetable soup is a little lighter and still flavoursome and nutritious and full of leafy green vegetables to help boost the Liver and Gall Bladder. It includes lots of spring vegetables such as silverbeet, zucchini, potatoes, carrots and celery.
Although the recipe mentions quantities, don’t feel like these are hard and fast amounts. There is a phrase in Italian that is used a lot by Nonna Rita when you ask “How much of this or how much of that do you need?” Her reply… “a cassacio” which loosely translates as “at random, or approximately”…
So, when you are making this Vegetale, add what you feel like – and have fun!
Prep Time: 10-15 min.
Total Time: 30min – 2 hours
PREP NOTE: This soup can be served with either chopped or blended vegetables. I prefer this soup blended so my vegetables are roughly chopped. If you prefer a chunky soup, then chop them to your preferred size.
COOKING NOTE: The secret to Italian cooking is TIME. The longer something cooks for, the better the flavour. But in our modern times we may be strapped for time. You can cook this soup until the vegetables are soft or until al dente (according to preference) and then proceed.
If you are blending this soup and notice it looks a little watery, the prior to blending you can reserve a bit of liquid in a bowl first. Blend the vegetables and add the liquid back in until the desired consistency.
If you are a little hungry and feel like something more substantial, then ladle soup into another pot and cook some rice in the soup. The soup will be a little thicker in consistency so you may need to add a little water or stock as it cooks.
And remember: Keep stirring the soup as the rice cooks… or you’ll end up with a sticky mess at the bottom of the pot (as I have done on many occasions!).