Toasted Fennel & Spicy Pork Soup
Updated: Aug 9, 2022
A pivotal lesson you come to learn when you move from the tropics is that of ~ seasonal cooking ~. I don't need fresh tomatoes in the winter because radishes and root veg are bewitching (with a little bit of tlc). I hadn't so much as held a leek until I was about 22, now I sing them to sleep most winter nights. I also never ate any soup but miso soup. Appalling behaviour. It is like falling in love twenty times a year though; that's what learning in the kitchen does to me.
This soup does so much to celebrate winter, flavour, and simplicity that I would be remiss to not shout about it from the shipping container I live next to. I also recommend doubling up on the carbs (see recipe for proof); and as a literal bear who somehow found herself awake during her usual hibernation stretch, I melt before those starches.
Side-note, if you think you don't like celery, try it like this and remind yourself 'celery. doesn't taste like celery when it is softened, braised, sautéed, and complemented'.
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
500g of minced pork
1 cup of diced leeks (white part only)
3/4 cup diced celery
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon - 1 tablespoon of chilli flakes (depending on spice tolerance)
6 cups of chicken or vegetable broth/stock
1 cup of butter beans (or beans of your choice)
2 cups of radiatori pasta (or any short pasta)
2 cups of torn silverbeet leaves (stems removed)
Salt & Pepper for seasoning
Buttered, toasted, sourdough
Toast your fennel seeds in a pan until fragrant (about 3-4 minutes). Then, using a mortar and pestle, grind the seeds into a fine powder. Alternatively, if you don't own a mortar and pestle (who does anyway) you can buy ground fennel and lightly toast it.
Add half of the ground fennel into the pork mince along with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Mix the spices into the pork really well.
Using a heavy bottomed soup pot (like Le Creuset's) heat up a glug of olive oil. Add the pork in and break it up into bite-sized chunks. You want your pork to sizzle as it hits the oil so that it can brown efficiently. If you have a small surface area, cook the pork in batches so that you don't overcrowd the pot.
Once the pork is browned and golden on both sides, remove it from the pot and set it aside. Then add another glug of olive oil to the leftover pork fat and add in your leeks and celery.
Turn the heat down low so that the leeks and celery can soften and get golden and jammy (about 5 - 7 minutes). Add in the garlic, chilli flakes, the rest of the toasted fennel, and salt and pepper. Cook for a further minute then pour in your stock.
Simmer the soup for 10 or so minutes to let the flavours concentrate then add in your beans, radiatori and silverbeet to cook. When the radiatori is just before al dente add the pork back in for 1 minute, then serve the soup up with buttered sourdough and a generous grating of parmesan.
The radiatori will continue to cook through in the soup, which is why you don't want it to be completely ready by the time you serve it up. - If you plan to serve the soup later, leave the pasta and silverbeet out until you go to reheat the soup, then cook them in the soup just before serving.