Tag Archives: Beans

A Soup for Summer

Summer Vegetable Nage

Summer Soup A-Swimming

For the past two years I have been experimenting with poaching. I have poached chicken, fish and even lamb. I love the tenderness that poaching lends meat, and it makes it really difficult (though not impossible) to  over cook.

The basis of a really good poached dish is the poaching liquid itself. This can be really simple, such as using water and maybe a few drops of vinegar when poaching eggs. More commonly, the poaching liquor, or nage is used to impart flavour and herbal notes to the thing you are poaching.

Nage comes from the French verb nager: to swim. The basis is a really good stock, and probably adding extra vegetables, which are then discarded.

Lately, nage has come to mean a delicate broth that gets served with the dish, but that can hold its own on the plate. The vegetables that were added for flavour are usually still removed. I hate wasting perfectly good food like this, and have been thinking that the basis of a poaching nage would make a delicious soup in its own right.

I had a vegetarian friend coming to dinner, the weather was stuffy, and I had broad beans, peas and herbs reaching their peak in the garden. I decided that I would experiment. The peas and beans should impart their soft sweet taste of summer, and the other vegetables needed a little bite. Unless you have few teeth, soft mushy vegetables are not pleasant, and certainly not what I wanted to represent a light summer soup. I served this dish as a delicate starter.

One of the herbs that I have in my garden is chervil. This delicate herb is often quite difficult to find in shops or markets in the Netherlands and the UK, but it really easy to grow, in the garden or on a windowsill. It has a delicate aniseed flavour but it really can add a lot to a salad, soup, fish or chicken dish, and will add a lot to a herb sauce. I really recommend that you have a go at growing this delightful little herb.

Herbs on a Saturday Challenge badge

Because I have used chervil and parsley in the soup, I am entering it in the June Herbs on Saturday, hosted by Karen Burns Booth at Lavender and Lovage. I really feel that this summery dish really captures the light herbal notes that are perfect for June.

The lemon zest trick was inspired by Nathan Outlaw, I think, but I’m not really sure where it came from. Don’t miss out that step though, it is important.

This soup really needs a good stock. You won’t be able to make it with a powder or a stock cube, it will be far too salty, and will also take away from the light herb flavours. Luckily, using the trimmings from the vegetables from this dish and a cabbage leaf or two, you can make a really good stock to use as the basis of the dish, with no waste. You definitely won’t regret it.

Recipe: Summer Vegetable and Herb Nage

Ingredients

Juice and zest of a lemon

700 ml of good quality vegetable stock (no cubes please)

100 g peas, shelled weight

200 g broad beans, shelled weight

2 shallots, finely chopped

4 summer carrots, finely chopped

1 bulb florence fennel, tough outer leaves removed and finely chopped

4 sprigs chervil, finely chopped (including stalks)

Small bunch curly leaf parsley, finely chopped (including stalks)

Any fronds from the fennel, finely chopped.

Salt to season

Method

Cook the lemon zest in a dry pan until you can smell the essential oils have been released. You will need to keep stirring, to help prevent burning.

Add the stock to the pan, and bring it to boiling point. Then lower the heat and simmer it for five minutes. Take it off the heat, and let it cool.

Cook the beans and the peas in unsalted boiling water. You can use the same pan, if you like, but the peas will need to go in after the beans have been cooking for a couple of minutes. Please take care not to over cook the vegetables. They really only need minutes, although the exact time will depend on their size. You will definitely not need longer than five minutes, even for large beans.

When cooked, drain the vegetables, and run them under a cold tap, or add to an ice bath to stop them cooking any further. Double-pod any broad beans bigger than half a centimetre in length. I know that this can seem like a hassle, but it really is necessary, and will give a much better balance of flavour overall.

When the stock is completely cold, add the lemon juice.

The next stages are very quick, so as not to overcook the vegetables, so please make sure that you have done all the chopping, don’t be tempted to continue chopping stuff while something  else cooks.

Soften the shallots for a minute or two on a low heat. You don’t really want the flavour of your best extra virgin olive oil here, so use a light olive oil, or sunflower oil. Be very careful, shallots can catch quickly, and you don’t want them to even start to colour. Keep stirring them.

Add the carrot and the fennel to the shallot, and sweat them all off for a minute, again, not allowing them to colour.

Add the cold stock, and bring it up to boiling point. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables just begin to soften. This will take no longer than five minutes, as the vegetable pieces should be quite small.

Taste and season with a little salt if you need to. You don’t need pepper for this dish, it will totally change the delicate balance of the flavours.

Add the peas and beans, and simmer for about a minute to allow them to warm, but not really cook more.

Finally, stir through the chopped herbs and serve this light, refreshing summer soup immediately.

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Spring Lamb Soup

Spring Lamb Soup

Lovely, Lovely Leftovers!

So yesterday I promised you a great recipe for the leftovers from my Bulgarian-ish  lamb. I’m not going to disappoint you, and neither will this soup. Once you have already made the lamb, it really is very minimal effort to make.

This sort of thing is really the best way to use up leftovers – minimal effort, but just different enough that it is not just a repeat of the meal from the day before. Oh, and delicious, of course!

You will use up the vegetable sauce, and the meat, and add bits of your own. If you don’t like chicory, then you can use baby gem lettuce in the same way instead. I might be nice to add a thinly sliced spring onion with the peas, or instead of the peas. If you don’t have parsley, you can try mint. that’s the other great thing about dishes like this, they really are completely adjustable to what you like and what you have in the cupboard.

Recipe: Spring Lamb Soup

Ingredients

150 g Puy lentils

4 heads chicory, the forced kind

A little oil for frying

200 g broad beans (podded weight)

1 l vegetable sauce leftover from Bulgarian-ish Lamb

200 g cooked lamb

100 g peas, shelled or frozen

2-3 drops Worcestershire Sauce

Small bunch parsley, finely chopped

Method

Cook the puy lentils in plenty of water, until they are almost done. Don’t salt the water, it makes their skins tough. Drain when they have reached this stage.

Meanwhile, halve the chicory, or cut it into quarters if it is large, but it is really better to get smaller ones. Heat the oil in a frying pan. When the oil has warmed, add the chicory, flat side down at first, and cook for a minute or two until the leaves start to colour, then flip them over to colour on the other side. Remove from the heat when they are coloured on both sides.

Cook the broad beans in boiling, unsalted water for three minutes, then drain them and double pod them. I think the reason that people think that they don’t like broad beans is because no-one has taken the trouble to double pod them. It isn’t all that much effort, and the results really are worth it. Unless you have the tiny baby beans, in which case they are fine just as they are.

Heat up the vegetable sauce, add the lentils, lamb and the chicory, and cook for five minutes. Add the beans and the peas and cook for a further minute. Season with a little Worcestershire sauce. Stir through the chopped parsley, and serve with crusty bread.

The whole meal takes less than 20 minutes to prepare, and what could be better, tastier, or easier than that?

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A Yuletide Legacy

Ham and Bean Soup

A Legacy of Leftovers

The best legacy of a Christmas dinner has to be the leftovers! Since my mantra is Taste not Waste, I am delighted when I can challenge myself to use up everything, so that nothing is thrown out.

The recent festivities yielded an obvious, yet exciting choice. I had a 2cm slice of the baked ham left, along with some cooked carrots from the christmas dinner. I also had a pot of gelatinous stock that came from the boiling bag that I had kept. I initially thought that it might be too salty to use, but you should never pour fat down the drain, so I tipped it into a container, and put it to one side. It turned out that there was actually very little fat in it, and the stock itself was rich, but definitely not too salty.

For the mince pie and mulled wine party, I had intended to make a couple of dips, so I had soaked some chickpeas and some cannellini beans, but as usual my ambition far exceeded the time I had given myself, and something had to give.I was considering just cooking the pulses up, and freezing them, they would have been fine to add to soups or stews from frozen.

However, beans and ham are an excellent combination. If I had more ham left, I would have made a version of a cassoulet, with the addition of some sausage and a tomato liquor to stew it all in. There are a hundred other types of dish I could have tried, but I settled on a soup, as it would make what little meat I had go the furthest.

The result that I achieved from such humble ingredients was brilliant. The soup was so flavoursome and satisfying, it made me quite proud. It really was the perfect way to end the Netherlands Christmas celebrations.

Recipe: Ham and Bean Soup

Ingredients

1 stick celery, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, finely chopped

1 leek, trimmed, washed and sliced into half moons

1 clove garlic, very finely chopped

Bacon fat to sweat the vegetables in

80 g ham, diced, more would be great, if you have it

1 tsp smoked paprika

200 g soaked weight chickpeas

300 g soaked weight cannellini beans

350 g ham stock. I have given a weight here, because the stock was solid when I added it to the soup. I would normally say that you could substitute one stock for another one, but in this soup, especially if you don’t have that much meat, I think that ham stock is integral to the flavour

Boiling water to cover

50 g cooked carrots. If you don’t have any leftover carrots, then use more raw ones

Small bunch chopped parsley

Method

Firstly, if you need to, soak and cook the pulses. You could also use a single tin of cannellini beans if you must, but the dried version will bring an extra dimension to the soup.

Prepare the vegetables, and sweat them off. I never throw away fat (of course) and I had a little fat left over from frying bacon, which I used to sweat off the vegetables, in order to maximise the flavour. This is by no means necessary, you could just as well use olive or sunflower oil.

Once the fat has melted, sweat off the onion, celery and the raw carrots for three or four minutes, before adding the leek. Leek burns easily, and the last thing you want is the bitter taste of burnt leek in this soup. When the leek is translucent, add the garlic and the smoked paprika, and let them cook off for a minute or so.

Stir in the ham and the beans, until they have a light coating of the smoked paprika, then add the stock and a little boiling water. The stock will melt down quickly. Top up the soup with more boiling water, so that the liquid covers the rest of the ingredients.

Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender to your liking. Add the cooked carrots, and simmer for another minute, to warm them through. Before serving, stir through some chopped parsley.

Great the day that you make it. Even better when you reheat the last bowlful for lunch the next day.

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Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone with Pumpkin Gnocchi

Despite the changeable weather, it is most definitely autumn. There are no more leaves on the trees, and the clocks will go back this weekend. To me, this means using up beans. We have been eating our borlotti beans for a little while, and I had a few other veg that I had in the ground or in the fridge.

Soup is always a great way to use up veg, and minestrone soup has beans as  the key ingredient for this hearty vegetable soup. As long as you have good base flavours from onion, carrot and celery, there are a million other veggies that you can add.

I used an onion and a half (the half was leftover from something else, and it needed using up), 3 carrots, 2 sticks of celery and a leek, which I chopped finely and sweated off with a few sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary. I added a  couple of cloves of chopped garlic, and cooked them off a little before adding the stock.

I am a bit of stock obsessive, and always have portions of roughly 500 ml of various stocks in the freezer. At the moment, I have pheasant, and beef. I usually always have vegetable and chicken stock too, but not today. So, I used 500 ml of beef stock and added water to cover the veg.

As this came up to the boil, I shelled the beans – this time a mixture of borlotti and the last of the french beans, whose pods are getting leathery, but the beans inside are large enough to eat on their own. I chucked them in with a few chopped pomodori tomatoes (you can also use tinned). I left the soup to simmer until all the beans were cooked through. You can also use dried (and soaked), or tinned beans if you haven’t any from the garden.

About half way through cooking,  I had a taste, and added a little tomato puree, and seasoning.

I also had half a fennel to use up, which I chopped finely. I love fennel, but wanted to retain some crunch and the fennel flavour as separate from the overall soup, so I didn’t add it until about 5  minutes before the soup was cooked.

I would have added a bit of shredded cabbage, kale or cavolo nero at this point, but we managed to lose the sweetheart cabbage we had bought at the market, so we had to do without that tonight.

Another traditional ingredient in minestrone is pasta. I had some fresh tagliatelle, because the Big Guy often buys it on impulse. I also wanted to try something a little different, so I divided the soup at this point, and chucked in some chopped tagliatelle into one pot, cooked it for a couple of minutes and ate the first night. It is also possible to use smaller pasta shapes, like acini, or ditalini. However, I was using what I had. I think smaller pasta is better in soups, so if I only had dried, I would have cooked it and chopped it before adding at the last minute.You can use rice if that is what you have too – either cook it in the soup or chuck in some cooked rice about 5 mins before serving.

I was recently inspired by a recipe from Niamh Shields, of Eat Like  A Girl, fame to try Pumpkin Gnocchi. I have been following her blog for a few years now, and this really seems to be her year, with new columns, a book, and a truck-load of awards. I have to say I am really pleased for her, I have tried a lot of her recipes and they always turn out well, and she is a real enthusiast on the subject of all things food.

Anyway, back to the gnocchi. As I have pumpkins, and pasta is added to minestrone, I thought that I would combine the two, so I made up a batch of the gnocchi, using Niamh’s recipe. I brought the soup back up to a simmer, and then cooked the gnocchi in the soup. I served it with a good helping of chopped parsley.

I haven’t  given a formal recipe for this, as with most soups, the amount I make largely depends on the ingredients that I have to hand.  As this is an Italian recipe, I am sure that there are many different versions, and this will not be what any Italian mothers would have added, but that is the beauty of such a  versatile soup, where pretty much anything goes.

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