Chunky orzo stew

Recipes aren’t just lists of ingredients – for me, they’re interactions of sort. The author is putting out the recipe as part and parcel of an exchange of knowledge, and of culture and identity: they’re sharing their skills, and a memory attached to the dish we’re looking to make. Every recipe I’ve written myself has a little something of ‘me’ in it – my preferences and tastes, and perhaps the recollection of the occasion I first made it.

This one recalls to my mind a vegetable soup my mum used to make regularly in the winter. She’d use fresh organic veg from our weekly delivery box, following one of their recipes. I liked it so much that I continued to make it for myself in my first year of uni, carrying with me a little bit of home. I’d completely forgotten about this now, in my third year – and with the recipe buried away somewhere, I improvised my own.

Hot bowls of hearty soup are an absolute winner in the colder months, and this was no disappointment; the red wine vinegar and basil give so much flavour.

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To serve two, you’ll need:

  • Two small / one large courgette
  • Half one onion
  • Half a stick of celery
  • One carrot
  • Two small cloves of garlic
  • Tin of beans – butter, kidney, canellini, chickpeas all work well
  • Tomato puree
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 150g dried orzo pasta, or other small pasta shape
  • Two handfuls fresh basil
  • Dried rosemary
  • Dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar

Begin by dicing the carrot and celery, and roughly chopping the onion. Heat a glug of oil in a large saucepan, and gently cook on a low heat for ten minutes.

Finely chop the garlic and add to the pan, turning up the heat. Cook until fragrant, before squeezing in 1/2 tbsp of tomato puree. Dice the courgette and add to the pan. Cook for another minute, stirring, before pouring in the tin of chopped tomatoes, and stock.

Add a tsp each of the dried herbs, along with crushed chilli flakes if desired. Stir well to incorporate, add a splash of red wine vinegar, and bring to the boil before turning the heat down and simmering for ten minutes. Top up with a little water if it’s looking dry.

Cook the pasta in the pan for fifteen minutes – towards the end, tip in the drained beans to warm through. Stir in the torn basil leaves, season, and taste: add more vinegar if required. After another five minutes, serve in pasta bowls with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast, and eat with spoons.

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