‘Minestra‘ is a typical Maltese dish. It is very similar to the Italian ‘minestrone’.
Maltese food is influenced by the cuisine of countries who ruled over these islands and also by countries close to our shores. The pasta we use in our kusksu bil-ful is a larger version of couscous – pasta typical of north Africa. We give food a twist to suit our culture and traditions.
Many of you will associate soups with cold weather. In Malta, however, minestra is one of those foods cooked all year round.
With Malta being so tiny, you’d think there’s just one recipe for minestra. This is not the case; you will find there are a number of regional variations. I remember my mother used to add pasta to the soup to make it more filling. Some Maltese families serve it with crusty bread. I prefer thicken the soup with a mix of grains and pulses.
This is my favourite minestra recipe.
200g soup mix (dried beans, lentils, chick peas, peas etc.)
500g courgettes or marrows
300g fresh tomatoes
150g celery (Maltese celery is not sweet)
200g pinto beans (or similar)
20g Swiss bouillon
2tbsps olive oil
- If using dried beans, soak for four hours, put in boiling water and simmer for 25 minutes (drain) – you can use canned beans
- Saute the leek in olive oil until soft but not coloured
- Put in the soup mix (grains and pulses) and cover with water. Bring to a rapid boil, lower the heat and simmer until you prepare the vegetables
- Prepare vegetables – wash and cut into similar-sized cubes (approx 3 x 3cms)
- Add the chopped vegetables (except tomatoes), Swiss bouillon and cover with boiling water – stir and cover
- Boil rapidly for 3-4 minutes, lower the heat completely and simmer gently for 20 minutes
- Add the pinto beans (or similar) and chopped tomatoes – stir gently, cover and simmer for a further five minutes
- Turn off the heat and leave to stand, covered, for a further 10 minutes – season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.
My mother, and her mother before her, used to leave the minestra simmering for at least an hour on a paraffin stove. Nowadays the trend is not to cook your veg to a pulp. I like my veg with a bite to them and find the timing suggested above is just right.
Minestra is not expensive to make, filling, kind to your waist line and very nutritious.
Give it a try and leave me your comments below.
My thanks go to