Winter Vegetable, Orzo and Porcini Minestrone

, from Issue #36.
Photography by Aaron McLean.
Winter Vegetable, Orzo and Porcini Minestrone


20 grams dried porcini mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots, finely diced
1 celery stalk, diced
3 bay leaves
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
100 grams orzo pasta
50 grams baby spinach leaves

To serve
olive oil
3-4 spicy sausages e.g. chorizo or fennel sausage
finely grated Parmesan cheese


Soak the porcini in 200 ml hot water until soft. Drain, reserve the liquid and set aside. Chop the mushrooms finely.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or stockpot. Add the shallots, celery and bay leaves and sauté for 2-3 minutes before stirring in the carrot, parsnip, fennel seeds and chopped mushrooms.  Season generously.

Cook for a further 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the drained porcini liquid and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in the orzo and cook for a further 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach. Rest for 5 minutes while you cook the sausage.

Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Squeeze the sausages from their casings into the hot pan, breaking into bite-sized pieces, and cook until golden and cooked through.

Serve the soup in bowls topped with golden pieces of sausage and grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 4 – 6

Pantry Note:
Orzo pasta: originating from Greece, orzo is a small rice-shaped pasta commonly used in soups, salads or as an alternative to rice. Available from specialty food stores and good supermarkets.