Each evening I go to the garden to give the chickens their afternoon tea. It’s pretty slim pickings for them now that the shop is closed so their tea isn’t a gourmet selection anymore but fortunately the chickens are still tuned in to the universe and their inner egg radars have turned back on. It is amazing how quickly the incremental increase of daylight brings on the eggs so to thank them I prowl around the garden looking for green things to supplement their diet.
It’s surprising what’s out there. It’s not growing very quickly – more like suspended animation but there’s always something. Yesterday evening I came down to the house with a head of fennel, some leeks and a bunch of kale – I soaked some cannellini beans and we were set up for today’s lunch.
Soaking dried beans for this recipe is optional as canned beans also do a good job. The bonus of cooking dried beans is the cooking liquid makes a great base for the stock. A Parmesan rind is a definite bonus if you have one. I didn’t this time but I did find some pumpkin that needed a home while I was searching the fridge which was great for the colour scheme.
Winter Garden Soup
100mls olive oil
1-2 stems celery
Parmesan rind – optional
1 bulb fennel
a bunch of kale
250g diced pumpkin
200g dried cannellini beans or 1-2 cans
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 litre vegetable stock or stock plus bean water
salt and pepper
If you’re using dried beans soak them in cold water overnight. The next day drain them, put them in a saucepan and cover them with water. Bring to the boil then simmer gently, covered with a lid for – now this is the mystery bit as it depends how old the beans were – anything between 40 mins and 2 hours. I keep checking. When they are cooked take them off the heat. Drain them and reserve the cooking liquid for the stock
Peel and chop the onion. Heat a medium/large saucepan, add the olive oil and the onion, give it a stir then turn the heat to medium.
Cut the celery in strips lengthwise then chop into a dice. Stir in with the onions.
If you have a Parmesan rind add it now.
Wash the fennel, cut it into half then slice thinly. Add to the pot. Season with a little salt and give it a stir.
You should be able to hear the vegetables sizzling. If you can’t increase the heat.
Trim the leeks – don’t cut all the green bit off, just the scraggy bits. Rinse well under running water to remove all dirt then slice into 1cm pieces. Add to the pot and stir.
Dice the pumpkin into 1cm cubes . Strip the rosemary from the woody stem and roughly chop. Add to the pot
Wash the kale then strip from the stem and chop into thin ribbons. Season with a little more salt and stir well.
Cook until the vegetables melt down. This sweetens the vegetables and enhances the flavours. Add the vegetable stock/bean water then bring to the boil. Stir in the beans then simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper. If you have used a parmesan rind take it out and discard (chickens love them!).
I like to give the soup a quick mash to encourage creaminess but don’t overdo it.