La Potee (French Farmhouse Soup with Bacon, Sausage and Beans)
This is a traditional French farmhouse soup or potee that is really a sort of cross between a soup and a stew and makes a meal in itself.
If you have a ridged griddle, it's nice to serve chargrilled French country bread or, failing that, some warm sourdough bread.
This recipe is from The Delia Collection: Soup. Serves 8
First of all, you need to soak the beans, so either put them into a bowl and cover them with cold water to soak overnight or alternatively, put the beans into a saucepan, cover them with cold water and bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes, then remove them from the heat and allow them to soak for 2 hours.
Either way, once the beans are soaked, drain and reserve the soaking liquid. Now make the soaking liquid up to 4 pints (2.25 litres) and place the gammon into the large pan with the soaked beans, parsley, thyme and the 4 pints (2.25 litres) of liquid. Bring to the boil, boil for 10 minutes (spooning off any scum as it appears), then cover and simmer the gammon over a low heat for 1½ hours.
Meanwhile, in a frying pan, slowly brown the sausages in a tablespoon of the oil. When they're a nice brown colour all over, remove them to a plate and slice them into ¼ inch (5 mm) slices. Next, when the gammon is ready, lift it out of the pan and on to a board. Then drain the rest of the ingredients from the pan into a colander, set over a large bowl, reserving the cooking liquor and beans but discarding the parsley and thyme stalks. Rinse out the pan and add the second tablespoon of oil to it. Heat the oil and now stir in the garlic and all the prepared vegetables, except the shredded cabbage. Then cover and cook the vegetables gently for about 15 minutes or until they are tender when tested with a skewer.
Meanwhile, skin the gammon, remove all the excess fat and chop the meat into smallish, soup-size pieces. When the vegetables are ready, return the pieces of gammon, along with the beans, to the saucepan. Now add enough of the cooking liquor to give the whole thing a suitably soupy consistency - 2½-2¾ pints (1.5-1.6 litres) - and season with plenty of freshly milled black pepper. Bring the soup back to the boil, then add the slices of sausages and the cabbage. Simmer for a further few minutes, uncovered, or until the cabbage has wilted, then ladle the piping hot soup into deep bowls and garnish each one with a scattering of chopped parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
You will also need a very large saucepan with a capacity of about 10 pints (5.75 litres).