While in most countries minestrone is a red, tomato based soup, in Peru it is green. Called "Sopa Menestron" it is a flavoursome, verdant soup with plenty of basil and baby spinach for flavour. There's garlic, soft cooked beef, peas, cannellini beans and potatoes as well to give it an entirely different (and dare I say more delicious) flavour!
Minestrone is one of those things that I just never order. I have a pathological dislike of soft or soggy pasta and minestrone just never tastes as good as I want it to. I first tried this while I was in Peru and Carlos from Mr Papa took me to Sieta Sopas which means Seven Soups representing their daily specials. That day's was minestrone which I wasn't overly enthused about until I saw cavernous bowls of green soup being brought to tables.
Once I took a spoonful I realised that this was more what I wanted minestrone to be. Stronger, herbier and more pronounced. The pasta wasn't soft and it came with a large piece of soft beef. I knew that I wanted to recreate it at home. It wasn't actually hard at all, most of the time was spent cooking the beef but if you have a pressure cooker or instant pot, that makes it much easier.
Speaking of Peru, I have a little update for you. I have decided to not go ahead with more Experiential Traveller tours. They were an insane amount of hard work and the returns were very small. I also had some issues with my business partner that seem to go on today and we have cut all ties. This was honestly a huge learning lesson for me. I guess I always assume that everyone's intentions are sincere and pure but they're not. My lesson Dear Reader, is to always get everything in a contract and don't trust everyone blindly!
That doesn't mean that I won't hold tours in the future, but they won't be with Experiential Traveller. I would have loved to have taken you to Peru again to show you this soup but for now, the recipe for this soup will have to do.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you like minestrone? What do you think of this green version?
Green Minestrone or Sopa Menestron
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- 800g/28ozs. beef brisket, flank or chuck, cut into pieces
- 2.5 litres/5.3pints beef stock
- Oil for frying
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 brown onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 sweet potatoes or potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 cup pasta
- 1.5 cups peas
- 8 leaves wombok or napa cabbage, cut into smaller pieces
- 400g/14ozs. tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup basil leaves
- 3 cups baby spinach
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Persian feta, chilli sauce and toasted bread to serve
Notes on beef: I used brisket and put it whole in the pressure cooker for 1 hour. If you don't have a pressure cooker I'd recommend using flank or chuck as brisket takes a while to cook. You can cut up the beef into chunks to hasten the cooking time.
Brisket in the pressure cooker
Step 1 - Cook the beef pieces in the beef stock-40 minutes in the pressure cooker/instant pot will do if they're cut into pieces or 60 minutes as a whole piece. Remove the beef and the stock and skim the stock. Switch to saute and heat the oil and fry the garlic and onion until fragrant.
Step 2 - Add 2.5 litres of beef flavoured stock back into the pressure cooker or instant pot and add the potatoes or sweet potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Then add the pasta and cook for 5 minutes (the pasta will continue to absorb liquid). Add the peas, cabbage and beans. Alternatively, boil the pasta in a separate pot for 6 minutes and then keep separate, adding it to the soup when serving.
Step 3 - Place the basil, spinach, olive oil and cheese in a food processor and blend to a fine paste. Add to the soup and then season with salt and pepper. You can also add a few cubes of Persian feta to the soup and have chilli sauce on the side with the toasted bread when you serve it too.