Flavours from Afar

mailife - - Contents - Words and Pho­tos by PRIYA SINGH Shar­ing recipes learned from lo­cals in far­away places, with a twist here and there!


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

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