One of my favourite TV chefs is Jamie Oliver. Indeed, it is with Jamie’s books that I started my first cooking adventures. There were many successes, but there were a couple of disasters, too. For example, I once made a seafood risotto inspired by a Jamie’s recipe. He put the whole (fresh!) chilly in the amount enough for four; he likes it hot. I could not find fresh chilli in the store in Zagreb, so I bought some small dried chillies. In my Mediterranean naiveté, I put two of the tiny dried chillies in what would be two portions of risotto: because he put one large one, I put two tiny ones. Needles to say, this was a mistake. As my Dad later pointed out, the smaller the chilli, the spicier it is, everyone knows that (thanks Dad!). The risotto ended up in the trash: it was so spicy I could not eat more than two forkfuls.
Despite my admiration for Jamie, there are a couple of things I disagree with, and one of them is his attitude towards the time needed to cook certain foods. In my opinion, you cannot make a minestrone in 15 minutes, even when you start with pre-peeled and washed ingredients and use a food processor instead of a knife. The onions need to sauté. The garlic needs to be fried. The tomato paste needs to be fried. The vegetables need time to mingle and make a flavour that is much more than the sum of its parts.
The half an hour that it takes to make a vegetarian minestrone is time well spent. Besides, if you make too much for one sitting (as I inevitably do), the following day it will only take the 5 minutes to warm up.
For this minestrone, I started with sautéing loads of onion. How much onion? Well, I have yet to see a dish for which I think that there is too much onion. Next, I added sliced carrot and sliced celery sticks. I pushed the vegetables to the sides of the pot and added a couple of chopped cloves of garlic, followed by a generous tablespoon of tomato paste. To that, I added some chilli (seeds in the trash, the rest in the pot) and some chopped rosemary. Next, I added lentils (about 150 g), chopped baby zucchini, a small handful of frozen peas, and half a medium chopped Hokkaido pumpkin. After about 10 min of cooking, I added a handful of pasta and let it cook for another 8 minutes.
Served it drizzled with some olive oil, and happy days.