What better way to celebrate a beautiful autumn day than with a warm bowl of soup made with seasonal vegetables? This simple minestrone recipe is packed full of vegetables and thanks to a crispy potato crouton, it is also full of texture. It is also a great recipe for the ‘Planetary Health Diet’.
Planetary Health Diet
It is a global reference diet for adults that is symbolically represented by half a plate of fruits, vegetables and nuts.EAT
This was introduced by EAT-Lancet Commission in order to improve our health, our future food security and to help save our planet. You can read more about this at the EAT-Lancet commission website.
Over a quarter of global greenhouse gas is produced by agriculture, of which over 80% comes from the production of meat and dairy. If our diet doesn’t change as our population grows, we will continue to produce more greenhouse gases and pollute the environment to the extent that we won’t be able to live on our planet. We can all agree this is something we don’t want to happen.
It has been shown that adopting the Planetary Health Diet would reduce food related emissions in G20 countries by nearly 46%. That’s pretty amazing. Given that we know our planet is in the midst of environmental emergency, this is something we should all be trying.
So what’s the catch? As any other diet, change is not always easy. For instance, the amount of meat in the Planetary Health Diet is very small, which might put off many people. You would also need to eat lots more beans than you might think in order to replace animal-based protein. However, beans are important, not just for protein: legumes take in nitrogen from the atmosphere (nitrogen causes eutrophication and becomes nitrous oxide, which is a potent greenhouse gas), so nitrogen fixers such as bean plants are good crops to grow. Lastly the amount of carbohydrate from wheat, rice, corns and potatoes are quite small, and they need to be wholemeal. For a Japanese person who likes eating rice, this can be hard to swallow, literally.
I followed the Planetary Health Diet for a while and it even was difficult for me. I quickly realised that as long as I knew the amount of meat I was eating and made sure to have a similar amount or less to what is being recommended (i.e. 14g/day or 98g/week) and tried to eat more beans, then I would more or less be eating roughly the recommended daily intake.
You don’t need to be strict about following the diet; the important thing is that you shift towards more plant-based food and continue with it. You can adjust your micronutrients later.
In this recipe, you can include any vegetables of your choice. Choose seasonal vegetables as much as you can to help minimise the carbon footprint. Eating seasonal food from the planet is also good for your health!
In the minestrone I’ve made (shown in the photo above), I used many home-grown vegetables including acorn squash (very similar to butternut squash), leek, carrots, and courgette.
I have previously tried adding onions, celery extra fresh tomatoes, pumpkins and even apples. Whatever you put in, it always tastes so good! The secret is to slowly cook it over a low heat. I usually leave the soup with the lid on overnight and eat on the second day.
For the topping, I used steamed kale under the crispy potato, but you can also use cabbage, cavolo nero, leek, chard and other leafy veggies of your choice.
I like my minestrone packed with ingredients. If you want a more ‘soupy’ soup, then either add less veg or more water.
So what are you waiting for? Dig in!
Ingredients (makes 4 medium bowl full or 2 large bowl full)
For the soup
3tbsp olive oil
400g seasonal vegetables (listed in the description above)
4 garlic cloves
1/3 cup of dry borlotto beans (or 1/2 up if using fresh like I did)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400g)
3tbsp tomato purée
1tsp vegan vegetable stock (Marigold Organic Vegan Vegetable Stock)
Salt to taste
For the toppings
1tbsp olive oil
200g purple potatoes
Handful of kales
In a heated casserole pots, add olive oil and sauté the vegetables starting with harder, root vegetables.
Add chopped tomato and pour water into the empty tin up to the top and add to the pot as well. If you want the soup to be a bit more soupy rather than thick with lots of vegetables, add half a tin more of water.
Add tomato puree and vegan vegetable stock.
Cook at the lowest heat for approx. 2 hours or until the vegetables are all nice and soft. I often turn off the heat after 2 hours with the lid closed and leave overnight before I reheat to eat.
Just before you eat the soup, make the crispy potato crouton:
Add olive oil in a heated non-stick frying pan.
Add potatoes chopped into small cubes.
At the lowest heat slowly fry the potato until crisp. Slowly is the key. If this stage is rushed, either the potato will be undercooked or burnt.
Steam kale. Set aside.
Pour the soup into a bowl.
Top the soup with steamed kale then sprinkle the crispy potato crouton.
Take the bowl of soup to your most comfy chair and enjoy.