One of my suppliers recently brought me a large bag of fresh borlotti beans.
They are quite difficult to grow in this country to get to the plump stage, so these were grown in Italy where they are eaten in great numbers.
A beautiful purple casing once opened reveals cream and lilac mottled beans which scream for a touch of garlic. I immediately thought of Tuscan bean stews, griddled fish, chunky bread and tomato salad, rustic and homely.
The beans are best cooked by simmering in water with some sage and, maybe later, added to a good tomato sauce (fantastic beans on toast).
In the past I have used them in a starter with slow-cooked octopus with garlic, lemon and parsley, but I wanted to keep to the rustic inclination that came to me when I saw the beans in their string bag. So I made a vegetarian bean, potato and garlic soup using milk instead of chicken stock.
Here’s the recipe and if you have trouble getting the beans fresh you could always buy dried and soak them in water overnight.
Borlotti bean soup
250g borlotti beans
2 sticks celery
1 medium sized potato peeled and cut into small cubes
6 cloves garlic
8 sage leaves
100ml double cream
1. Finely chop the onion, celery and leek.
2. Heat a large pan on a low heat and add some olive oil.
3. Cook the vegetables for five minutes without colouring.
4. Add the beans, potato, bay, sage and the milk.
5. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
6. Check the beans are cooked and if not continue to cook for five minutes.
7. Remove the bay and sage and add the cream.
8. Liquidise but keep some texture.
9. Taste and season.
10. Serve with a little olive oil and chive flowers.