A good soup by (and for), a cuddly bloke on a diet…

And both are yours truly…

I make this a hell of a lot, a veggie friend is quite fond of it too, but it’s one of those recipes that exists only in my head. Not necessarily a bad thing – that’s where the vast majority of my recipes live – and only about 70 or 80 have ever been written down.

And when I say “my recipes” that’s exactly what I mean though, admittedly, outside the overhyped world of “molecular gastronomy” (which I refuse to take seriously), there is little that is truly original in the world of cooking. For example, when I was 10 (1955), I made a sandwich filling with shredded roast chicken, salad cream and English mustard. Fast forward to a couple of years ago and, on TV, I watched Rachel Allen make the same thing, but with mayo and Dijon mustard.

Anyway, this is my soup – so there!

A Soup of Cannellini Beans and Vegetables…


Ingredients (makes 3 litres in my usual stainless steel casserole – scale up or down according to the size of your own pot or pan, but bear in mind that the amount of work needed to make 3 litres instead of 2 is minuscule, and this is seriously good soup):-

3 or 4 Echalion shallots (according to size), finely chopped

2 strong cooking onions, ditto

A couple of slices of celeriac, trimmed and diced (there’s a lot of waste on celeriac, but I like it so in it goes). Use 2 or 3 stalks of de-stringed celery if you prefer it.

3 or 4 sweet, well-flavoured carrots, sliced. My preference is for Sainsbury’s Sweet Spear. Tesco’s Imperator aren’t bad either, and are what’s going into today’s version

1 teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon dried thyme

2 Kallo organic veg stock cubes

A splash of soy sauce

¼ teaspoon of celery salt (the flavour of celeriac is quite delicate). Omit if using celery.

1 ½ or 2 tablespoons sweet paprika, according to taste (I’ll go with 2)

2 teaspoons ground cumin. If you find cumin too assertive, try ground coriander. That, too, goes well with paprika.


1 teaspoon when the soup is finished, to perk it up (optional, but worth it).

A little Marigold bouillon powder, to taste, if you think it’s needed

Maldon Sea Salt and fine black pepper, to taste

3 cans of Napolina Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained

A knob of butter, preferably clarified

A splash of extra-virgin olive oil

Greens, as available (optional). I like greens in some soups and most casseroles. They add interest and bulk, for minimal kcals. Mid Spring to mid Autumn I’ll use Pak Choi, the white stalks and green leaves giving two very different textures. In the colder months (you can tell by the temperature of the rain), they tend to go mushy when cooked, so I avoid them and use whatever I have. Right now I have frozen baby spinach, which has the virtue of being soft enough to chop while frozen, as it comes in lumps.

A handful of finely-shredded sweet red pepper (the long, pointed kind – Romano or Ramiro – depending on where you buy them). I keep 2 of them in the freezer, deseeded and cut into postage-stamp-sized pieces, lightly sautéed in olive oil, put in the bottom of a plastic food bag, tightly rolled into a sausage, and frozen. That way I can just slice off as much or as little as I need for a garnish, as here. Frozen oil is rock-hard. Break off a lump, give it a few minutes, and it’s be soft enough to shred or chop. As a main  ingredient, I’d use fresh ones.


Boil a kettle of water.

Melt the butter with the oil and, over a low heat, sweat the shallots and onions until soft and golden, but not browned. Stir in the paprika and the first of the cumin, adding more oil if needed, and cook out for a few minutes, while dissolving the stock cubes in a little hot water.

Add the dissolved stock cubes and stir well, then add everything else that comes before the Marigold bouillon powder, plus enough boiling water to cover. Stir well, bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer.

Carrots are your benchmark when cooking as they take longest, unless cut up very small. So, when they’re almost soft but still have a little crunch, add the greens and peppers, if using, bring back to the boil, reduce to a simmer again and leave until the carrots are fully cooked.

Finally, stir in the beans as gently as you can, add enough water to cover well – this should almost fill the casserole if you’re using a 3 litre one – and leave to heat through . Some will break up, as they’re quite delicate but for me, the more robust red kidney bean is fit only for animal feed. Pinto or Borlotti beans are smaller, but won’t break up, so you could go with those, but they will make your soup look like mud, though it’ll still taste good. Your call.

Stir in the last teaspoon of cumin, and a little Marigold if you think it needs a tweak, then allow to cool and the refrigerate overnight to allow the flavours the intimacy to snuggle up and get to know each other really well in the dark.

The beans will leak a little salt overnight, so next day, reheat and check/adjust the seasoning before serving. It’ll need pepper, it might not need salt.

Serve with good bread (well, OK, any bread will work but why eat poor bread?), to enhance the protein content.