There are some who will say soup does not make a dinner, certainly not an evening meal, but I have to dispute this. Anyone who has read this blog before will know that the two people behind Food4two, me and my partner (who doesn’t cook, just eats) are big eaters and when I serve up this soup for dinner it is more than enough to fill up my greedy man with hollow legs and a bottom-less stomach.
I grant you, you will need some good crusty bread to go with it, but that is all. I know it’s an over-used word in food writing, but this is truly the definition of a hearty soup. Pureed soups for evening dinner somehow don’t cut it – more like a drink than a meal really.
This, however, has small chunks of salty pancetta, root vegetables, strands of kale and filling, protein rich beans in it. This is my favourite soup of all time, packed with flavour, simple to make, easy to adapt to the seasons and all using ingredients you may find in your store cupboard. If you have a rind of parmesan in the fridge (or stashed in the freezer, which you can do) then put it in during the simmering stage to imbue the liquid with its savoury flavour then remove it before adding the greens and beans. This amount is plenty for two people, often with a portion left for lunch the next day.
Chunky vegetable and bean soup with parmesan
10 slices of pancetta or around 70g of pancetta cubes (which you get in packs from the supermarket)
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, finely diced
2 large or 3 medium carrots, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
400g canned tomatoes
500ml chicken stock (if not using fresh stock, use a good cube like Kallo Organic chicken stock cubes)
1tsp Dijon mustard
400g can of cannellini beans
Large handful of cavelo nero, shredded (or spinach, kale, chard or Orach leaves)
Parmesan, for grating on the top
1. Fry the pancetta in a small amount of olive oil in a large saucepan until starting to crisp. Add the onion, carrot and celery, stir and place the lid on to allow the vegetables to soften. This will take about 10-15 minutes, take the lid off and stir regularly.
2. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Then add the canned tomatoes, mustard and hot stock. Stir and cook with lid half-covering the pan for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
3. Add the beans and the cavelo nero and cook for 5-10 minutes more, if you are using spinach or chard it will take less time as the leaves are more tender. In summer you could add chopped courgette and chopped up French beans instead of kale.
4. Serve in deep bowls, sprinkled with grated parmesan and crusty bread on the side.