Lemons are one of my kitchen staples. I couldn’t cook without them. Their juice adds a zing to any curry that lifts all the other flavours. A squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of good olive oil is all you need for the best salad dressing. The zest gives a brightness to cakes and cookies that could otherwise be too sweet. And no paella (vegetarian or not) would be complete without those sunny little wedges to spritz over as you serve.
If you taste a dish just before serving and think that there’s something missing, that it’s not quite right. Squeeze over some fresh lemon juice, add a pinch more salt and taste it again. The dish will come alive.
I always make sure I have a bowl of lemons in my kitchen, it makes me feel safe and the aroma of freshly squeezed or zested lemons makes the kitchen smell fresh and clean. Lemons are best friends with another of my kitchen staples, fresh herbs. If you have lemons and fresh parsley, coriander, mint or basil you are seconds away from making an okay dish into an outstanding one. An uninspiring bowl of pasta with tomato sauce can be transformed with the last-minute addition of lemon juice and fresh basil. Any curry, South East Asian, Caribbean or Indian, would be dreadfully incomplete without the final squeezing over of fresh lemon juice (or it’s more exotic cousin, the lime) and a large handful of fresh coriander.
Lemon, mint and parsley are the stars of this Greek style soup. Mint and parsley are widely used in Greek and Middle Eastern cooking. The freshness of mint with the saltiness of a Greek Feta or Cypriot Halloumi cheese is a match made in heaven, squeeze over some fresh lemon juice and you have arrived…..
Greek Style Tomato & Bean Soup with Lemon, Mint & Parsley
serves 4 – 6, vegetarian/ vegan without the Feta
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 leek, cut in half lengthways, rinsed and sliced (you can use a small onion)
- 1 stick celery, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely, chopped
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
- a pinch of dried chilli flakes
- salt & black pepper
- 1/4 or 1/2 head cabbage, shredded
- 1 jar/tin cooked butter beans about 400 gr
- 1/2 jar/tin kidney beans 200 gr
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes 400 gr
- 1 lemon
- a splash of white wine (optional)
- 3 or 4 tbsp tomato puree (tomate frito)
- about a litre of veg stock
- 10 squares of frozen spinach or 1 bag of fresh (about 300 gr)
- 100 gr quinoa (or orzo, rice, small pasta)
- 75 gr Greek Feta cheese
- 10 or 12 fresh mint leaves, chopped
- a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- a handful of black olives (if you like them, I don’t)
Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a large deep saucepan. Add the onions/leeks, celery, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, chilli flakes and dried oregano. Season with salt & black pepper and cook until softened about 4 or 5 minutes. Then add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add a splash of wine and stir in the shredded cabbage, butter beans, kidney beans and tinned tomatoes. Zest the lemon, add it to pot with half of the juice and the tomato puree. Add the veg stock, season well with salt & black pepper and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down & simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Add in the quinoa or pasta, olives and the frozen spinach (if using fresh stir it through a couple of minutes before serving just to wilt). Cook for another 10 – 15 minutes until the quinoa/pasta/rice is cooked.
Just before serving squeeze the rest of the lemon juice into the pot or serve some wedges on the side. Serve the soup in warmed bowls topped with some crumbled Feta, sprinkle over the chopped mint & parsley and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil…….
You can make this soup with whatever beans you have in your cupboard. White beans and chickpeas would be good. I had some cooked quinoa in the fridge so I added it in. It may not be authentic but the texture worked and it’s high in protein which is great for vegetarian dishes. Just make sure you use the dried oregano (a key Greek seasoning) as well as the fresh mint, parsley, lemon juice and Greek Feta and it will be delicious………….