It might have been a family favourite over the years, but a little international inspiration can make vegetable soup a sophisticated dinner-party option too.
Is there anything more comforting than a steaming bowl of homemade vegetable soup on a wintry day? It’s a staple of family cuisines the world over, and after years of improvising with whatever’s left in the fridge, the making of it becomes second nature.
You probably have your own techniques, tried-and-tested flavours and spices that please everyone – even vegetable-phobic little ones. After all, vegetable soup is one of the best ways to get the five-a-day into the family diet, fill everyone up and keep on top of your fibre intake – on a tiny budget.
But as the kids get older and leave home, you have an opportunity to refresh your broth-making skills, try something new and go for a more sophisticated approach to soup. From rich minestrone to spicy mulligatawny or an aromatic Vietnamese pho, look abroad for inspiration on flavour and vegetables. Or try this stunningly simple recipe for a comforting Sicilian classic, Il Macco – favoured by Italy’s favourite TV cop Inspector Montalbano.
Serve with a drop of olive oil and a few chopped fennel fronds – and, as the Sicilians do, give into temptation and wipe the bowl clean with rustic bread.Broad Bean Macco
Cooking time: 1 hour
Preparation time: 1 hourServes 4 Ingredients
500g dried broad beans
1 onion, peeled but whole
1 carrot, unpeeled
1 stick of celery
bunch of fennel fronds
salt to taste
olive oil to tasteMethod
1. Put the broad beans in a bowl of tepid water for about half an hour to soften and clean.
2. Rinse and pour them into a saucepan, cover with water (to a level at least 4 fingers over the beans) at room temperature.
3. Add the onion, carrot, celery, most of the fennel and a level teaspoon of salt.
4. Bring to the boil and then simmer for approximately 45 minutes, until the water is almost completely absorbed.
5. Remove the celery, carrot and onion, and stir energetically with a spoon until the soup becomes creamy and smooth.
6. Fry a few finely chopped fennel fronds in some extra virgin olive oil and add to the creamy soup. Let it sit for about 10 minutes with the lid on.
7. Serve in bowls, adding a little fennel to garnish and freshly ground pepper to taste.