Flavours from Afar
FROM NEW YORK, USA: MINESTRONE SOUP WITH CHORIZO
A white Christmas in New York frequents many bucket lists and found itself at the top of mine a few years ago. Flourishing in the Obama era, New York in that year had a wonderful festive atmosphere. It had been a few years since snow had fallen on Christmas Day so the city woke up believing in miracles, with frozen rinks in Central Park and dusting of white covering the streets of Manhattan. The great chill brought with it the need for nourishing, warm food — particularly for someone who was used to Christmas beach BBQ’s under the glorious scorching heat at Pacific Harbour. Layered in wool and hands padded in wind-breaking leather, I strolled from my Soho apartment to one of the few open deli’s in Little Italy. The neighbourhood owes its name to the Italian migrants who first inhabited the place — today, it is lined with the best pizzerias, deli’s and osteria’s in New York. The famous Lombardi’s, New York’s first pizzeria is found here and countless other establishments with rich history. The area is also rich in Italian mafia history and any walking tour guide will share tales of war between Italian mob families over the past few decades. Nestled in Little Italy, is an old school Italian eatery called Da Nico. Cozied into a warm chair and digging into the bowl of the highly recommended minestrone soup, I slowly thawed. “How does a bowl of soup taste so good?”, I asked the waiter as he poured a small glass chianti and put down some warm sourdough bread. “Signora, usually we put in marsala wine but for Christmas Day, we try something different. We fry the vegetables in chorizo oil”, he said. I have never made minestrone soup without chorizo since that fateful Christmas morning.
1 clove of garlic 1 x 400 gram tin crushed tomatoes 1 red onion 1 handful of Italian parsley* 2-3 leaves of sage* 1 handful of basil 3 carrots 2 sticks of celery 1 eggplant 2 potatoes 2 chorizo sausages (or spicy lamb sausages) olive oil 800 grams vegetable stock 3 cups of spinach 100 g penne pasta 1 loaf wholemeal sourdough bread salt, to taste pepper, to taste
*use dried Italian herbs if fresh is not available
The key to a flavourful minestrone soup is flash frying the vegetables before finishing them off in the boiler pot. This recipe adds the rich spiciness of chorizo to the medley of fresh herbs which makes this the perfect winter dish. To start, chop the onions, carrots, celery, eggplant and potatoes into small pieces, about the size of a thumbnail. Let the chopped vegetables rest in a bowl of salted water for fifteen minutes. In the meantime, slice the chorizo sausages into round discs and fry until the red oil seeps into the pan. Remove the fried chorizo pieces from the pan and keep aside for later. Strain the vegetables before adding into the same pan which is now coated with flavourful chorizo oil. Turn the heat up to high and flash fry the vegetables with the sage leaves and chopped garlic until they let out an aroma. Tip the fried vegetables into a boiler pot, add the tin of tomatoes, salt and pepper, followed by the broth. Slowly bring to boil while you chop the spinach. Once the soup is bubbling, lower the heat before adding the greens. As the soup simmers away, take the penne pasta and securely wrap it in a dry tea towel. The signature feature of a minestrone is the crushed pasta pieces in the soup — take a rolling pin and give the towel-wrapped pasta two or three good bashes. Unroll the towel and pour the pieces of pasta into the soup pot. Bring back to a boil and cook until the pasta pieces are el-dente, meaning soft enough to eat but still a firm texture on the teeth. Scoop the hot soup into bowls and top with chopped parsley, basil and the fried chorizo. Serve with warm slices of sourdough bread and enjoy.
Streets of Little Italy
Christmas Ice Skating in Central Park
Lobster Ravioli in Little Italy