Winter vegetable ‘minestronotto’

Today, Kipper wanted to go to the Folk Museum (now known as the Museum of Cambridge). It is a terrific museum, with lots of great hands-on stuff for kids to have a go at, play with, dress up in, and generally explore. On previous visits we’ve taken advantage of their discovery boxes, which have activities and suggestions of things to look for in each of the rooms.

On the ground floor, there is a room full of old kitchen and household equipment and a table set up as a grocer’s shop, which children can play with. There are various foodstuffs available, with scoops, paper bags, and old balance scales ready for the weighing out and packaging up. There are baskets, jars and tins, and even a price-list in shillings and pence. There are even – and Kipper was VERY taken with this – child-sized stripy grocers’ aprons to wear, while being a shopkeeper.

Kipper played for an hour at being a shopkeeper.

Which gave me plenty of time to nose around the displays of kitchen items from times past. There’s a fairly hefty mechanical widget complete with bicycle chain and rotary handle – for peeling apples, apparently. Some frankly terrifying looking early electric kettles and irons. And a display of packaging of common household consumables, like boot polish, gravy salt, and my favourite – desiccated soup. I can only assume that this is an early incarnation of stock powder.

Once we’d done with the shop, we ventured upstairs, bypassed the dressing up opportunities (academic gowns, assorted hats) and made a beeline for the ‘playroom’ on the top floor. This is where they keep displays of toys and other childhood memorabilia, including LOADS of things to play with. Kipper is particularly fond of the big dolls’ house, but there are also seasonal toys to be discovered here – last summer a Punch and Judy stand popped up for a while, and in December there was a huge Christmas tree with activities underneath. Today the rugs were festooned with cushions and there was a large basket of vintage children’s books to look through.

Apple peeler, groceries in the 'shop', and Desiccated Soup - at the Museum of Cambridge

Apple peeler, groceries in the ‘shop’, and Desiccated Soup – at the Museum of Cambridge

Once we got home, I started to think about dinner, and wondered if I could come up with something that used ingredients from Kipper’s shop. A search of the cupboards and fridge located some winter vegetables, including carrots and mushrooms, as well as split peas and rice, and of course, desiccated soup. Plus a few other bits and pieces.

The end result was a very tasty ‘minestronotto’. OK, so I’ve invented that word. It’s a bit like a risotto, only made with minestrone mix, which contains split peas, lentils, barley and pasta, among other things. If you’ve never used it before, do give it a try – it cooks in 10-15 minutes and is a great standby to add bulk (and nutritional value) to soups and stews. Yum.

We ate our winter vegetable minestronotto with some steamed savoy cabbage. Once I’d pointed out that it was full of things from her shop, Kipper ate loads 🙂

Winter vegetable 'minestronotto' with steamed savoy cabbage

Winter vegetable ‘minestronotto’ with steamed savoy cabbage

Winter vegetable ‘minestronotto’

You will need:
5g mixed dried mushrooms (optional, but they do make it extra tasty)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions
3 medium carrots
125g mushrooms
250g minestrone mix
500ml hot vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
Ground black pepper

What to do:
Cover the dried mushrooms with boiling water and set aside.
Peel and slice the onions. Slice the mushrooms.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan, and add the onions and mushrooms. Fry gently on a low-medium heat to soften. Meanwhile peel and slice the carrots and add them to the pan.
Drain the reconstituted dried mushrooms and reserve the liquid. Add to the pan with the other vegetables and mix well.
Add the minestrone mix to the pan and mix well. Pour the mushroom soaking liquid through a strainer and add to the pan – it will have bits of grit in it, so if you don’t have a strainer, don’t add it. Pour over the stock, stir and bring to a simmer.
Cover the pan and reduce the heat. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed and everything is thoroughly cooked.


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  1. Pingback:Shakshuka: eggs poached in pepper & tomato sauce Family-Friends-Food

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