Autumn Minestrone

If a big bowl of warming comfort is what you crave, this bean-based minestrone soup recipe is the answer.

Gather Cook Feast: Recipes from Land and Water by the Co-Founder of Toast
120 recipes celebrating seasonal cooking
Fresh and flavourful feasts, made for sharing
Inspiring ideas for beautiful desserts

Introduction

This soup needs long and slow cooking – and it is much better reheated, so make ahead of time.

The red haricot bean (actually a deep garnet colour) is British grown, smaller and more delicate than the better-known red kidney or borlotti beans. I favour the red haricot for those reasons, but all three will perform, breaking down into creamy richness during the long cook. The method specifies dried, but if using tinned (2 x 400g tins), skip the soaking and boiling. Note that dried red beans should always be boiled hard for 10 minutes to neutralize traces of toxins present in the skins of some dried beans.

Smoked pork ribs can be easily homemade using the method on page 232 of Gather Cook Feast, or ordered from a specialist butcher. They make all the difference to this dish. For a vegetarian version, replace the pork ribs with several saved umami-rich old Parmesan rinds (but remove before eating).

Serves 6

Ingredients

250g dried red haricot beans (or red kidney or borlotti)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 sticks of celery, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
2 bay leaves, fresh if possible
3-5 sprigs of fresh thyme and/or winter or summer savory
2 medium to large potatoes (around 300g), peeled and finely chopped
300g smoked pork ribs
½ x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
sea salt and black pepper
peppery extra virgin olive oil
aged balsamic vinegar
roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves

Essential kit

You will need: a heavy-bottomed casserole pot.

Instructions

Soak the beans in three times their volume of cold water for 8–12 hours.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole pot. Add the onions, carrots and celery and soften over a medium heat for 10–15 minutes.

Add the garlic and herbs and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.

Drain the beans and add them to the pot along with 1 litre of fresh water. Increase the heat and let the beans boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat, then cover and leave to simmer gently until the beans are just tender but still holding their shape, around 40 minutes.

Stir in the potatoes, ribs and tomatoes, put the lid back on and continue simmering for at least another hour (preferably two), until the beans and potatoes are starting to fall apart and the meat on the ribs is tender.

Remove the bay leaves, herb stalks and ribs. Use a couple of forks to shred the meat off the bones. Return the shredded meat to the pot and add some water if the soup is too thick. Stir well to encourage the beans and potatoes to fall apart. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Ladle a serving into each bowl and pour over a little peppery extra virgin olive oil and elderberry vinegar. Sprinkle with parsley.

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