Delicious meals are often made with two secret ingredients: love; and time. Time is something many of us are short of in the way we live our lives, but there are ways to make the most of the time you do have to allow some ingredients the time they need to work their magic.
One way is to plan ahead. Also, take opportunities to build up a supply of base ingredients which can later be pulled into a meal without too much trouble, and allow your dishes to settle into themselves and get comfortable so they can release their flavours.
Imagine this as a timetable:
- A day (let’s call it Day 1): rinse dried beans and leave them to soak overnight in plenty of water;
- The next day: cook the dried beans – if you use a slow cooker you can let them cook themselves;
- Another day, or maybe the same day: make vegetable stock and store it in the fridge or freezer;
- Another day, or maybe the same day: make parmesan broth and store it in the fridge or freezer.
At this point you have a treasure chest of good food to dip into whenever you like. So now you can move on –
- Another day: make soup;
- The next day: reheat the soup (I sometimes use the slow cooker for this) and eat.
I have noticed that soups, like many recipes, work with a formula. Start with some aromatics like onion, leek, garlic, etc, add a flavoursome broth or stock, a special guest ingredient or two and some appropriate seasonings. You can read more about the formula for building a soup from ingredients you have on hand in this post here.
This soup uses the things I had in the pantry, fridge and garden. If you have the patience and planning, leaving it to sit and settle for a day does allow the flavours to develop. Dried beans are best but, if you really don’t have the time, you can use canned beans. I suggest one 400g can of each type of bean, reserving about ½ cup to stir through after blending.
Two bean soup with secret ingredients
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 leek (white part only), sliced
- 1 large or 2 small shallots, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or ½ teaspoon dried)
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 3 cups (750ml) vegetable stock
- 2 cups cooked mixed borlotti and cannellini beans, plus extra ½ cup reserved for after blending
- Small handful of kale leaves or other leafy green vegetable, chopped
- 4 cups (1 litre) parmesan broth
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
Heat olive oil on a moderate heat in a large, heavy based pot. Sauté leek, shallot and garlic until softened. Add carrot and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add kale or greens, beans and stock. Bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Allow to cool. Blend or process the soup enough to combine ingredients but leave it with some texture. Return to the pot, add the parmesan broth, lemon juice, extra beans and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 15-20 minutes.
Serve hot either straight away, or allow to cool then reheat to serve the following day.
If you like garnishes, a little shaved parmesan, a sprinkle of thyme leaves and some pepper will do nicely. We served this with home made focaccia.