Making minestrone, Sapiens and the honeysuckle is out

I’ve been growing basil from seed in wee pots on two windowsills and there are now large leaves on both sets of plants. Basil is very easy to grow and very nutritious, with some websites claiming a huge range of benefits, which I would need to verify from other sites before believing all the claims. So, what to cook with the fresh basil? A simple search will give many suggestions but I opted for minestrone soup. There are more minestrone soup recipes online and in cookery books than there are heads on my basil plants. What they all have in common is vegetables, tomatoes and pasta – after that, it’s up to the individual. My soup, which is fairly thick and chunky consists of:

1 large leek

1 large dirty carrot

Half of a medium sized turnip (called swede outside Scotland)

2 stalks of celery

1 clove of garlic

Basil and oregano – a mixture of dried and fresh

1 tin of tomatoes

A good squeeze of tomato puree

1 litre of stock – I used a ham stock cube and a vegetable stock cube but purists might want to make their own stock

1 mug of pasta

It involves a lot of therapeutic slicing, unless you use a food processor. I like to slice the leeks and garlic finely and then slice the celery, carrots and turnip into small cubes. I sweat the leeks and garlic in margarine, having added the herbs to them, then add the rest of the vegetables. I give this a good stir for one minute and add the tomatoes and the stock, then the pasta and the puree. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and it should cook in about 20 minutes – try the turnip to make sure. I find that it’s best to cook it one day and eat it the next day, as this deepens the flavour. It looks good with a couple of basil leaves on top – see photo below – and tastes wonderful – add some freshly grated parmesan to enhance the flavour further.

Minestrone soup

Minestrone soup

Out on my trusty Forme Longcliffe the other day, I listened (safely i.e. I could hear traffic at a distance behind me) to Start the Week which included a range of guests, but the most intriguing for me was the author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind, Yuval Noah Harari.  The author tells us that there were many species of what we call human but only homo sapiens survived, mainly due to this species’ cognitive abilities. Harari argues that our society has developed through storytelling and myth and that many of the things that people believe in e.g. money, are in fact based on shared myths. Money works because we trust each other and believe for example that a £20 note (worthless in itself) can justifiably buy us 2 bottles of Rioja. He also argued that many of the revolutions that have been seen as hugely progressive – e.g. the agricultural and industrial revolutions – were, for most people, regressive as they lost previous freedoms which they enjoyed in small communities, as they were forced to join large communities (in towns and later cities) and become subservient. Harari is often controversial and many people may find some of his arguments overly simplistic, but he raises many interesting questions in his book.

In my garden, the honeysuckle is now showing its vibrant array of colours and shapes. As the photos below show, a close up look at honeysuckle flowers could be mistaken for underwater sea plants, with their display of tentacles, or something from science fiction, e.g. other world creatures landing on earth, having a look at the strange and very unsophisticated humans – and having a real good laugh.

Honeysuckle flowers

Honeysuckle flowers

Honeysuckle flowers

Honeysuckle flowers

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