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Vegetable and Pasta Soup (Minestrone)

ingredients

8 servings
3 3/4 cups Water 900 ml (1 3/4 pints)
125 g (4 oz) 2/3 cup Dried kidney beans
50 g (2 oz) 1/3 cup Dried chick-peas
175 g (6 oz) Salt pork, cubed
50 ml (2 fl oz) 4 Tbs Olive oil
2 Medium onions, chopped
1 Garlic clove, crushed
2 Medium potatoes, diced
4 Carrots, sliced
4 Celery stalks, sliced
1/2 Small cabbage, finely shredded
6 Medium tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 1/2 litre (4 pints) 10 cups Chicken stock
1 Bouquet garni
Salt and pepper to taste
225 g (8 oz) 1 1/3 cups Fresh peas, weighed after shelling
125 g (4 oz) Macaroni
50 g (2 oz) 1/2 CUP Parmesan cheese, grated

method

1. Bring the water to the boil over high heat. Add the beans and chick-peas and boil for 2 minutes.

2. Remove from the heat and set aside to soak for 1 1/2 hours.

3. Return the pan to high heat and bring to the boil again. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the beans for 1 1/2 hours, or until they are almost tender.

4. Drain the beans and peas in a colander and set aside.

5. Fry the salt pork cubes in a saucepan until they resemble small croutons and have rendered most of their fat.

6. Transfer the salt pork to a plate. Add the oil to the saucepan and stir in the onions and garlic.

7. Fry until the onions are soft. Stir in the potatoes, carrots and celery and fry for 5 minutes, then add the cabbage and tomatoes. Cook for a further 5 minutes.

8. Pour over the stock, then add the bouquet garni, reserved beans and chick-peas, salt pork and salt and pepper. Bring" to the boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer the soup for 35 minutes. Uncover and remove and discard the bouquet garni. Add the fresh peas and macaroni and cook for a further 10 to 15 minutes, or until the macaroni is 'al dente', or just tender.

9. Pour the soup into serving bowls and sprinkle over the grated Parmesan before serving.

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