Bottom of the Fridge Soup…

Well, sort of… It’s Tomato and Cannellini Bean Soup, flavoured with some really excellent dried basil – just a little – and spiked with sweet paprika (of which, as it turned out, I didn’t have enough – the recipe reflects what I should have had), and ground coriander.

Bottom of the fridge because it’s using up some onions, shallots and carrots that have been lurking there for a while, plus some canned cannellini beans I opened by mistake, and immediately bagged and froze (unlike Matthew Fort, I tend not to find overlooked whole salmon, or half a roast goose, in my fridge!). Not as bad as it sounds as my veg drawer is just a degree or two above freezing and, tightly wrapped to avoid dehydration, veg keeps extremely well. This is also good with canned flageolet beans, but I like cannellini as they break up a little when cooked, even the canned ones, allowing them to take up the flavours of the soup.

When it comes to canned tomatoes, I buy Sainsbury’s Basics (39p), or Tesco  Value (31p, which is what I have today, though I think Sainsbury’s are just that bit better**), peeled plum tomatoes in both cases. never chopped (quality is better). The toms might need a bit of a trim with a sharp knife, but the flavour is as good as anything you’ll pay 2 or 3 times the price for and, of course, they’re still cheap if you have to use two cans, which I would have done if I had no tomato powder.

** I’m going to experiment with more expensive tomatoes, see if they really are any better, as I started buying the cheap ones when money was really tight and the habit stuck. Given the acidity of today’s soup, perhaps, I should go upmarket.

After I’ve trimmed them, I push them through a large sieve into a bowl, using the bottom of a glass, which has a rounded shape that makes it perfect for the job. Takes 10 seconds to process one can – hardly onerous. Or you could buy passata. Also in my freezer is a bag of tomato purée (tip, when typing a word like that, deliberately misspell it – the correction will insert the accent for you). That’s frozen in desert-spoon sized lumps, and two of those will go in, along with some of my dehydrated vegetable powder and, towards the end, some tomato powder.

So, the recipe:-

Tomato and Cannellini Bean Soup

1 small to medium onion

2 or 3 torpedo-shaped shallots (or another onion, perhaps red, or even the white of a leek)

2 Sweet Spear carrots (these are a seasonal carrot – getting close to the end now –  available from Sainsbury’s, with an excellent flavour; if they’re gone there’s no equivalent, so any carrot will do)

1 400g  can Tomatoes

1 rounded tablespoon tomato purée

2 teaspoons sugar – any bland type, I use golden caster

1 400g can Napolina cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (Napolina are the best canned pulses that are easily available; not cheap, but little more than the cost of soaking and cooking your own, which isn’t as economical as many people think when the high cost of fuel is factored in)

4 teaspoons sweet paprika

3  teaspoons ground coriander  (using less coriander allows the paprika to come through)

Generous knob of butter

Splash of e-v olive oil (stops the butter burning)

1 Kallo organic vegetable cube

Hot water

1 fresh basil leaf, finely shredded – you just want a hint of basil, it shouldn’t dominate. If you have none, omit it****

Optional – not everyone will have them:-

2 teaspoons mixed dehydrated vegetable powder**

2 or 3 teaspoons tomato powder, mixed with a little of the soup and added near the end***

** These ground to a powder in a coffee/spice mill kept just for this.

*** This wonderful stuff!

**** I used this – just a pinch – it really is as good as they claim. Not as good as fresh, perhaps, but better than normal dried basil, which is just sort of generically, and usefully, herby.


Finely chop the carrots and alliums, melt the butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan, add the veg, stir well and leave over a low heat to soften without colouring (which means don’t bugger off to write a blog post!). Stir occasionally.

Don’t worry that the veg more than half fill the pan at first, they’ll cook right down when they soften.

When they’ve cooked down, and the carrots are getting soft, stir in the spices and cook through for a few minutes, before adding the tomatoes and the purée. Whisk the stock cube in a little hot water – use the bowl the tomatoes were in – and add to the pan, top up with hot water to about the ¾ mark, to leave room for the beans. Add the vegetable powder at this point, if using

Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour or until the carrots are fully soft (which in a tomato-based dish is longer than you might think). Top up the water to the original level and add the beans shortly before the end – they just need to heat through.

If using, add the tomato powder, whisked to a thin paste with a little of the soup liquid, and stir well.

If you want a slightly thicker soup, stir in a little Smash. This is also useful if the soup is a little overly-acidic, as mine is, as it acts as a buffering agent. Canned toms can be acid, not least because citric acid is added, for reasons which eternally elude me.

Adjust the seasoning with Maldon Sea Salt (it really is good with vegetable dishes), and freshly ground black pepper. Leave to cool, and refrigerate overnight to give the flavours a chance to snuggle up to each other. When the soup was almost cold – just about blood heat – I popped a whole, medium-hot dried chilli into it, to gently infuse it with a little heat overnight, in lieu of the missing paprika spiciness.

Remove the chilli, reheat gently, and serve with a swirl of decent olive oil, or cream, and good, home-made, bread.

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