Following an extended period of warm settled weather, autumn has arrived in Wales with a vengeance. This puts me in the mood for hearty, sustaining fare with long, slow cooking. Not only does this make the house smell good, but it gives me something positive to think about on a grey day. So here’s one for the slow-cooker.
This is a very basic recipe for a winter staple which can be made completely from scratch (directions included here) or adapted to use cupboard convenience ingredients. Although the whole process can take 24 hours, it doesn’t require very much attention during that time, and once prepared it can be refrigerated for a day or two until needed. Quantities given will serve four, but can be multiplied easily.
|½ cup||Dry white beans (Or a large can of beans, drained)|
|4 cups||Ham or pork stock: ham or pork bones, bay leaf, whole cloves, peppercorns. See below to prepare in advance.
Alternatively, substitute by making with vegetable stock cubes at the last minute. This will not have the same texture or flavour, but it will work as soup.
|1 tablespoon||Vegetable oil|
|½ cup||Onion, chopped small|
|½ cup||Celery, chopped small (one average stalk)|
|¼ cup||Carrot, chopped small|
|1 tablespoon||Butter or margarine|
|2 tablespoons||Plain flour|
|½ cup||Mashed potato (optional)|
|Salt and pepper|
- Soak the dry beans in cold water 8 hours or overnight; drain.
- Meanwhile, to prepare stock, bring a ham bone or pork ankle joint (sometimes called ‘trotter’) to the boil in plenty of fresh water. I always include a bay leaf and a couple of whole cloves and peppercorns to enhance the pork flavour, but this is a matter of personal preference. Reduce heat to a vigorous simmer and allow to cook for a couple of hours, until liquid is cloudy and any meaty bits come loose from the bones. Strain; discard bones and anything rubbery. Refrigerate until ready to use. Cold stock should be quite gelatinous.
- Set slow cooker to preheat on high when ready to start cooking beans.
- In large saucepan, bring stock and drained beans (if using dried and soaked) to gentle boil and cook for 10 minutes. (If using canned beans, just bring the stock to the boil, which reduces the time needed in the slow cooker.)
- While the beans are boiling, sauté the vegetables in the oil in a medium sized frying pan.
- Transfer first the vegetables and then the beans and stock to the slow cooker.
- Reduce heat to low and cook for 6 to 8 hours until beans are tender.
- You may add mashed potato for added texture; do this in the last half-hour or so, just so that it will be fully heated.
- If you don’t plan to serve the soup right away, refrigerate at this point.
- Just before serving, prepare ‘binding’ for the soup by rubbing butter and flour together. Add to hot soup, stirring until fully incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You shouldn’t need much salt if you started with a _ham_ bone, as this will have been heavily salted already.)