I know it’s summer and it should be all sunshine and blue skies, maxi dresses and sandals, but I must confess I’ve really enjoyed the rain we’ve had on and off over the past week. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the hot sunny weather, but I just find the rain so therapeutic; it makes me feel nostalgic and dreamy. I took great pleasure in walking back to the station from the office on Friday evening, looking out from under my blue paisley umbrella at the smokey grey sky as the rain pitter-pattered down.
The rain continued into Saturday afternoon and I enjoyed it even more as my little goddaughter came to stay and we spent the afternoon snug indoors playing games, colouring and watching bright children’s TV. She had already had lunch before Rob picked her up but I started to feel peckish and hadn’t really thought about lunch, so I went for the good-old store cupboard favourite; homemade soup.
I always like to have cans of various beans in the cupboard, along with cans of tomatoes and the usual pasta and rice. No matter what, I know I have a good meal waiting to be made just by reaching for these. Yesterday I grabbed a can of cannellini beans, a can of chopped tomatoes, a bottle of liquid chicken stock concentrate, a bay leaf and a few vegetables and made a hearty, and really tasty soup in about a quarter of an hour. Pretty good, huh?
It’s the cannellini beans and tomatoes in this soup which made me call it Tuscan-style but I really can’t vouch for how authentic it is, particularly with the canned, rather than pre-soaked beans! But who cares, anyway? The name I’d christened it with made it feel full of Italian homely goodness and I swear I saw through the window a stream of sunshine breaking through the rain clouds as I dipped my crusty bread into the bowl.
You can easily adjust this soup as you like, or according to what you have in. Try using different herbs such as rosemary, thyme or sage, butter beans in place of the cannellini beans, and different vegetables. Garlic would be good to add, as would dark greens like curly kale or savoy cabbage. You could also finish it with a drizzle of olive oil and perhaps some Parmesan cheese.
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
1 celery stick, diced
500ml chicken stock
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can cannellini beans
1 bay leaf
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Thick crusty bread, to serve
Heat a little olive oil into a large pan over a medium heat and then add the onion, carrots and celery. Sauté them for about 5 minutes until they soften and start to take on a little colour.
Add the stock, tomatoes, cannellini beans and bay leaf and then bring the mixture to the boil and simmer it until the vegetables are cooked through but still a little al denté.
Remove the bay leaf and then season the soup with a little sea salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper before serving with thick crusty bread.