Sunday, 24 February 2008

Maltese Minestra

This is a recipe that can easily be adapted for vegetarians by leaving out the bacon and adding extra chick peas (or any of your favourite legumes). Because some saltiness is needed for flavour, instead of the lamb stock cube, use a good quality vegetable stock cube.

Minestra, is simply Maltese peasant food, cooked using any left over vegetables and roast meat - a way for nothing to go to waste. It is very healthy and filling. Perfect for the winter nights.

Serves 4


300gms thick smoked bacon or pancetta, with fat trimmed off and cut into
generous sized chunks (Or any left over sausage, met, etc)

1 Small pumpkin or squash, peeled and de-seeded
3 Medium sweet potatoes (chopped into 1 inch thick pieces)
1/2 a small cauliflower, separate the florets
3 shallots - finely chopped
1 garlic clove - finely chopped
2 large carrots (chopped into 1 inch thick pieces)
1 cup peas
Half a tin of chickpeas (usually they have been already prepared and ready
to cook with)
Small handful of lentils (optional)

1 lamb stock cube, melted down with a little boiling water (about 50 mls)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon mild curry
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Easy way to peel a pumpkin:

No two ways about it, pumpkin is a bitch to peel, the skin is tough and the
flesh about as hard to chop up. So this is how I deal with it:

In a large saucepan, large enough to accommodate your pumpkin, cover with boiling water and simmer on high for about 20 mins to par-boil it. Drain and allow the pumpkin to cool. The flesh should now be soft and coming away from the pumpkin shell. Chop in half and scoop out the seeds. Scoop out the flesh and set aside for the Minestra. It doesn't have to cut into pretty chucks, as it will dissolve to a thick soup during cooking.


In a large saucepan, fry the shallots and garlic, on a medium heat, when soft, throw in the bacon and cook until the bacon is brown. At this point, pour in the stock, curry, pepper and parsley and stir. Add the carrots, potatoes and cauliflower. Pour in boiling water to cover. After about 10 mins, add the pumpkin (as this will have already been par-boiled if the above method has been used - if not, put in the same time as the carrot) and if desired, the lentils. Cover the saucepan for 25 mins to simmer. In the last 5 mins, add the chickpeas and peas and stir to make sure the pumpkin (and lentils) is completely dissolved through.

Serve with croƻtons or crusty bread with grated Parmesan cheese over the top.

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