Haricot Bean Soup with Loads of Veg

Making your own soup is a brilliant idea for lots of reasons – it’s really cheap (if you make one pot for the week, you can have all your lunches sorted for less than a tenner), it can be really healthy (obviously some recipes are better than others, but you can easily get three or four of your five-a-day into your soup pot), it’s good fun, and it’s easy!

This soup is amazing – the haricot beans give it a wonderful smoky flavour, almost as if it’s got bacon in it, while the carrots add a slight sweetness. Leeks are a great addition to soups as well because they bring a lovely buttery taste that makes a healthy soup taste delicious too! This recipe, which is packed with vegetables and very straightforward, comes from 1001 One-Pot Casseroles, Soups and Stews (click here to find it on Amazon). To save yourself some time, I’d recommend buying canned haricot beans, which don’t need any faffing about with soaking overnight, you can use them straight from the can if you just give them a rinse. Canned beans and pulses are a great way to add interesting flavours and extra nutritional value to soups and stews – they’re really cheap and you can just have them waiting in the cupboard for when you need to use them.

To start, I softened leeks and onions in olive oil, then added garlic, celery and carrots. A quick note on celery – I have to admit that when it’s raw, I absolutely hate the stuff. But I love Jamie Oliver recipes and he puts celery in almost everything, it seems, so I decided to give it a go and now I think it’s such a good ingredient for soups, stews and sauces. In most cases I don’t think you can single out the taste but it adds a depth of flavour which makes everything more interesting. Plus, it’s good for you!

Once all the vegetables had softened, I added a couple of pints of hot water, the rinsed haricot beans, salt and black pepper, and a good sprinkle of dried thyme and dried oregano (sometimes recipes ask for marjoram, which is almost exactly the same thing, so I think you can interchange the two without worrying). I then left everything to bubble away in the liquid for about an hour and a half, although if you’re pushed for time you could cut that down – just give the veggies a poke to see if they’ve softened enough to fall apart.

The final step is to blend everything together. A handheld mixer is a really good tool to have in the cupboard – mine cost about £10 and I use it all the time (see the Kitchen Bits & Bobs page for more details). Once the soup is blended, you need to taste it carefully and see if it needs any more seasoning, then you can leave it bubbling until you're ready to eat - serve with some interesting cheeses and some nice bread.