I am writing this post to a soundtrack of what can only be described as “squishy battle noises” because my best beloved is playing Diablo III (an Italian version he got for cheap off of eBay as apparently the seller did not know it could be played in English) next to me on the sofa. It is distracting to say the least but when I mentioned that I was going to go downstairs because of the noise he responded “it’s not that loud,” which I interpreted to mean that he wants my company. Sitting in front of him is an uneaten flapjack I made for him over an hour ago when he was searching the cupboards forlornly in search of pudding (this despite the fact that I had just done the weekly shop). I told him I wasn’t buying puddings any more as I could just make something if we got desperate, so I made a quick flapjack (recipe here) that he has yet to eat. Evidently Diablo III is so engrossing that it has distracted him from his earlier craving.
But I digress. This is really a post about some minestrone soup I made tonight. It was shopping day so I wanted to use up some of what we had left in the cupboard/fridge. I was planning another random lentil-and-potato-and-vegetable crock pot soup, but I thought that minestrone sounded better. I Googled a recipe only to check that stock and water were acceptable additions, and that you could indeed add ground beef to a crock pot. I might add here that I am a little bit obsessive about what goes in the crock pot; I have this vague idea that somehow I will poison everybody if I add something to the pot that doesn’t belong there. I can’t quite get my head around how food is ok to eat if it has been sitting out for hours (my husband – who is currently sitting next to me chanting “shit shit shit… run run run…” as the TV screen fills with a red mist – says it has something to do with holding at a high temperature and it is fine and I 95% believe him). But other than that I just threw some stuff in the crock pot and called it minestrone soup. It turned out to be quite tasty (which was a bonus – we were going to eat it regardless of what it tasted like… dinner is dinner).
Why, you may ask, would I bother to write a blog post about a random made-up minestrone soup I threw together whilst also juggling the demands of two children (quite literally – I had to stop and breastfeed L in the “beef-frying” stage, which meant turning the stove down to low and sitting in a chair a suitable distance away that I was not endangering my baby but close enough to make sure nothing caught on fire, and walk upstairs mid-feed to help M to “wipe”, despite the fact that he is perfectly capable of doing it himself – allegedly he could not reach the loo roll)? As well as the fact that I am rather proud of myself for managing to get it into the crockpot at all, calls of nature notwithstanding, I am sharing this post for anyone who, like me, is intimidated by recipes.
That’s right, I hate recipes. This is the main reason that I dislike cooking; it stresses me out to follow a recipe. I might add here that I have OCD (and not of the “I’m a bit OCD because I have to keep the kitchen tidy” variety) and for some reason feel the need to re-read each part of the recipe ad nauseam to make sure I am doing everything in the right order and including all the right measurements, meaning that everything takes twice as long as it should and I usually miss a step anyway (or do something differently because I think I know better than the recipe) and end up ruining what would otherwise have been a perfectly good dish. So for anyone else who (for whatever reason) is intimidated by recipes, or is just wondering if it is possible to just throw a bunch of stuff in the slow cooker and have it work out (most people of course know this already, it is only people like me – and perhaps I am the only one – who question what is, after all, the innate beauty and sole purpose of a slow cooker) my answer for tonight is that yes, it is possible. It is even possible if you have very little time and one or two distractions along the way.
Ironic though it is to share a recipe in a post that is about not following a recipe, here is my (non) recipe for minestrone soup (multi-tasking optional):
Garlic (as much as you like – crushed with a knife then chopped)
Carrots (however many you like – I used two – peeled and chopped)
Celery (ditto – I used one stick – ditto)
Frozen minced beef (just a little bit so as to save some for spaghetti)
500ml beef stock
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Basil and Oregano (because that is what we had)
Macaroni (remains of a packet)
1. Chop and fry onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in a little oil (add the garlic last because my husband, who
is a know-all knows a lot about cooking says if you add it first it ruins it somehow).
2. (Optional) pick up baby and try to console briefly while questioning why he is crying as you literally just fed him an hour ago.
3. Add frozen minced beef and leave to cook for a while until browned.
4. (Optional) feed baby who insists he is absolutely starving despite having only been fed an hour ago and does not seem to understand that other members of the family rather need to eat too.
5. Add the fried stuff to the crockpot along with the tinned tomatoes and the beef stock.
6. Shake in some salt, pepper, basil and oregano. As much as you think (or if you have OCD, shake in the salt then do a couple of extra shakes to make sure you end on a “good” number).
7. Cook on high for about 5 hours (which is probably too long but necessary if, like me, your husband missed the train).
8. Add the macaroni and extra water – as much as you think the macaroni will need to cook in.
9. At the end add more boiling water if the soup looks too thick (or if your husband looks at it and suggests adding water. Resist urge to make a catty comment in response).
Serve with warm bread – I used one of those “partially baked” ones that I had left over from a previous crockpot soup. (Optional: set tub of margarine on the table to go with the bread, and a knife. If like mine, your chosen dining partner thinks a fight might break out over the margarine knife, by all means get up from where you have just sat down and get another knife for the table).
So there you have it: a perfectly edible minestrone soup; one sense of humour intact; and enough leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. It is now 11pm and my husband has yet to eat the flapjack; I however, am going to eat mine. Goodnight. [Ah, as I was proofreading my husband has finally taken a bite and says they are “better than the last time.” High praise indeed; my work here is done].