Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hassan’s Celery and white bean soup

250g dried cannelloni beans, soaked in cold water overnight (or 650g cooked beans – drained weight)
10 Tbsp (150ml) olive oil
1 large head of celery with leaves, trimmed of roots, then sliced across into 2cm chunks
8 spring onions, green tops included, sliced into 1 cm rounds
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1tsp caraway seeds, lightly crushed (optional)
500g favoursome tomatoes, blanched, peeled, and seeded, then roughly chopped
1tsp celery salt

To serve
Extra virgin olive oil
A squeeze of lemon juice
4-6 whole spring onions, trimmed
a small bunch of any of the following: Rocket, sorrel, and radish
a small bowl of oily black olives
Turkish bread

Drain the soaked beans and place in a saucepan, with plenty of fresh water. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for approximately 1 hour, or until tender, skimming off any scum and topping up the water as necessary. Season with salt and set aside.
Meanwhile place a large saucepan over medium heat and add 6 Tbsp of olive oil. When it is hot, add the celery and cook for 10 min, stirring often. Now add the spring onions, garlic, caraway if using, and a good pinch of salt. Cook for 10 -15 min, stirring every now and then, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to caramelize. Add the tomatoes and half the celery salt, and cook for a further 5 min. Drain the beans, reserving 250ml of their cooking liquor, and stir them into the pan, with the reserved liquor, or water, and the remaining 4 Tbsp of olive oil. Bring to a simmer, season with salt, if needed, and pepper and cook for another 5 min. Check the seasoning once more.

Serve with a generous drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and the remaining celery salt on top. Eat with alternate mouthfuls of spring onions, greens, black olives and bread, as these accompaniments are very much part of the experience.

To make your own celery salt, place a handful of green celery leaves on a baking tray, and dry in a low-medium oven, moving them around till completely dry, but not scorched. Crumble to a powder with your fingers, removing any long veins, and mix with equal parts (by eye) of Maldon salt.

This was from Moro East. I have their orignial book (Moro) too, but I prefer this one. The first book was from their restaurant, and I felt like the food was more restaurant then good home cooking. That said, I still have every intention of trying it, because with a book as wonderful as this one, I can’t imagine that they have a bad book in the lot.

This soup was stunning. It was just the kind of soup I prefer, super chunky and thick, and the beans make it very comforting as well. It says that the caraway seeds are optional, but I don’t believe that they are, I think they are necessary. It’s just such a lovely blend of flavors.

I made some Turkish Flat breads to go with it (I’ll do the recipe for them at some point). They weren’t tough to make, and they went very nicely with the soup, but I think that any bread would, if you can’t get Turkish. DO follow the serving suggestions though, because the olives and the bread and the greens really make this a wonderful feast, rather then just a wonderful soup.

The note about making celery salt is excellent too. It took no time to do, my son really enjoyed helping and now I know what to do with celery leaves from now on.

Good recipe, good tips, good all around.


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