As well as the perfect dish to host a big fridge clear out, soup is the ultimate seasonal or cultural dish: Cavolo Nero and borlotti beans give this one an Italian vibe as well as some nutritious winter fuel.
On soup’s versatility, the amounts below are simply what I had to hand last time I made this. So if you have a 650g bag of carrots (often standard amongst the UK supermarkets) – and a big enough saucepan – chuck ‘em all in! You’ll need to add more water and – you are anything like me and like your stews pulsating with pulses – then another tin of beans to thicken it up.
Soup is pretty simple to make; the secret is to ‘sweat’ the base vegetables to draw out their flavours without browning. This basically entails cooking them for a good 5-10 minutes on a low heat, with the saucepan lid on. For stews, I partially blend to thicken the juice but leave some chunks of vegetables. A few pulses with a blender – handheld or otherwise – does the job.
Ingredients (serves 6 plus)
2-3 large onions
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
1 mild chilli (optional)
500g (plus) carrots
Vegetable bouillon powder – 1 tbsp dissolved in 1.5 ml hot water
460g Borlotti beans (net weight of 2 x 400g cans)
200g Cavolo Nero
Squeeze of lemon juice (no more than half a lemon)
Parsley to garnish (optional)
- Dice the onions and, in your largest saucepan, fry for a few minutes. Add the finely chopped garlic and chilli if using.
- Cut the carrots vertically in half and then slice into bite-sized chunks. Slice up the celery to a similar size. Tip them into the frying onions, give a good stir and pop the saucepan lid on to allow the vegetables to ‘sweat’ for about 10 minutes, giving the occasional stir to ensure nothing is catching on the base of the saucepan.
- Make up the stock by stirring the vegetable bouillon powder with the hot water. Pour into the onion mix and bring everything to a simmer; let the soup gently cook for about 10 minutes.
- Shred the cavolo nero and rinse and drain the cans of beans. Add to the soup and simmer for another 5 minutes, try a piece of cavolo nero to check it is cooked.
- Using the pulse button on your blender, partially blend the stew to the thickness you desire.
Add the lemon juice, a good grinding of black pepper – you may not need salt as the vegetable bouillon powder provides plenty of flavour. Garnish with parsley before serving.