If you keep an assortment of tinned beans and tomatoes in your cupboard, you will always have the makings of a delicious meal to hand. With only a few additional ingredients, you can be eating like royalty in no time at all.
Some of the beans I like to keep on hand are borlotti, cannellini, kidney,butterbeans, chickpeas, and pinto . . . to name but a few. They come in really handy for all sorts. Canned beans are excellent value for money. They are not only very nutritious, low in fat and a good source of fibre and protein, but they also save the chore of having to soak dried beans overnight and then cooking them the next day. With a good rinsing, you probably wouldn't be able to note much of a difference between them and freshly cooked ones . . .
I also keep several varieties of tomatoes . . . whole and chopped italian plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, tomato passata, condensed tomato puree (sun dried and regular, a few tins with garlic and olive oil already added, and my treasured American ro-tel tomatoes, which have chopped green chilies already added. I love the tuscany tomatoes as they are brighter in colour and much sweeter than the regular variety of tinned tomatoes, but I save them for special dishes as they cost a bit more.
We often eat soup for lunch or dinner in the wintertime. It's a great way of using up extra bits of vegetables that look to be getting a bit tired and need using up, and an excellent way of feeding a large group of people. I often make large batches and then freeze the excess in smaller containers to take out at a later date.
This is a particularly tasty soup that comes from one of my favourite regions of Italy. I'm afraid I have anglicized it a bit, to suit my own tastes and what I had on hand. I like think my version is healthier because there is no fat in it. I thicken it with breadcrumbs and of course the beans help to thicken it a bit as well.
The addition of the redcurrant jelly gives it an extra layer of flavour, which will have your guests wondering what that elusive flavour is that makes it taste that much more delicious.
*Easy Tuscany Bean Soup*
Serves 4 to 6
A very delicious soup made quickly from store cupboard ingredients. It is very healthy and low in fat, as well as hearty and filling. A family favourite.
! medium leek, roughly chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped finely
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped finely
1 (400g) tin of chopped tomatoes (2 cups)
1 1/2 pints vegetable stock (3 cups)
1 (400g) tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (2 cups)
2 TBS red currant jelly
2 TBS tomato puree (tomato paste)
4 TBS fresh bread crumbs
salt and pepper
chopped fresh flat leaf parsley to garnish
Place the prepared vegetables into a large saucepan. Add the chopped tomatoes and the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the rinsed beans, red currant jelly and tomato puree. Simmer for a further 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
Add the breadcrumbs and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring back to the boil, then simmer for a couple of minutes. Ladle into hot soup bowls. Garnish with parsley and serve with warm crusty bread. Delicious!