Butter Bean, Bacon and Parsley Soup

Butter beans, boiled on their own (as I remember them at school) tend to be dull, but they make a good, thick, creamy soup and have the great virtue of being able to absorb other flavours really well.

Serves 4

This recipe first appeared in The Delia Collection: Soup.

Butter Bean, Bacon and Parsley Soup
 8 oz (225 g) dried butter beans
 4 oz (110 g) smoked streaky bacon, derinded and chopped
 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, to serve
 2 tablespoons groundnut oil, or other flavourless oil
 1 bay leaf
 1 oz (25 g) butter
 1 onion, finely chopped
 1 leek, trimmed, cleaned and finely chopped
 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
 1 large clove garlic, crushed
 about 5 fl oz (150 ml) milk
 salt and freshly milled black pepper


First of all, you need to soak the beans overnight in a pan by covering them with cold water, or, using the same amount of cold water, bring them up to the boil, boil for 10 minutes and leave them to soak for 2 hours. Either way, drain the beans. Now heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium saucepan and cook the bacon in it for 5 minutes or until lightly crisp and golden.

Next, add the bay leaf and 1¾ pints (1 litre) water to the pan with the drained beans. Bring to the boil, partially cover, and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes or until the beans are tender, skimming off any scum that appears on the surface.

Meanwhile, heat the butter and remaining oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped onion, leek and celery. Stir to coat everything with butter and oil, and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes. Now tip the bacon, along with the cooked beans and their cooking liquor, into the pan containing the vegetables, discarding the bay leaf. 

Next, add the garlic, cover and continue simmering for a further 10 minutes or until the beans and vegetables are soft, then mash the beans against the sides of the pan with a large fork to thicken the soup. 

Now stir in the milk, season with salt and a generous grinding of freshly milled black pepper and stir everything together, before adding the chopped parsley to serve.

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