Photo by Tam West
- Place the saffron in a small cup with 1 tablespoon of hot water and leave to steep.
- Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over low heat. Add the onion and cook until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds. Add the carrots and cook for 5 minutes, then add the celery and cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Add the fennel bulb and potato. Stir in the vegetable stock, tomatoes and saffron with its liquid. Increase the heat and bring just up to the boil. Season to taste.
- Stir in the risotto rice and chickpeas, reduce the heat and simmer minestrone for 15 minutes or until the potato and rice are cooked. Check seasoning again before serving in warmed shallow soup bowls. Chop the reserved fennel fronds and sprinkle over. Serve with parmesan for grating.
- You could top minestrone with pan-fried or grilled slices of pancetta.