Sydney has had the longest Indian summer this year, with months of extraordinarily barmy and mild weather, temperatures in the mid-twenties, clear blue skies and warm ocean temperatures, which meant people were still happily swimming in the ocean all throughout May. You would think I could just accept this glorious weather and enjoy it but I have a darkly, pessimistic side and I am already looking ahead to the summer (a savage El Niño event is on the cards, with predictions of record-breaking temperatures, bushfires and drought). I also come from a small rural community and, as every good farmer knows, you can never be too optimistic about anything, because nature, fate and that once-in-a-hundred-year drought is always waiting in the wings to drag you down if you get to feel too cocky about your luck.
So, on the weekend, when Sydney’s marathon of beautiful, autumn days came to an end, the skies clouded over and we had moments of glorious, if somewhat patchy rain, I felt relieved for the return to more normal temperatures and because we could start eating soup for dinner again. (To be truthful, we’ve been eating soup throughout the mild autumn but it somehow feels more proper and right to eat soup when the temperatures are dropping outside and you can cosy up next to the heater)
I’ve been making this soup for a few years – it’s one of my favorite winter soups for a mid-week meal. Not only is it incredibly quick and easy but it has a lovely depth of flavour from the garlic, celery and olive oil that makes you feel like it’s been slow cooking all day on a wood-fired stove. The wilted greens on top make this a complete meal: serve it with crusty sour dough bread, it’s so warming and sustaining, you won’t miss the passing of the clear blue skies of the Indian summer.
White bean soup with winter greens
Adapted from Jill Dupleix, Good Living Magazine, Sydney Morning Herald, May 2009
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, finely sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 x 400 grams of white beans (drained and rinsed)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 litre of stock, heated
- 200 mls of water
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 500 grams of washed winter greens – spinach, silver beet, cavalo nero or kale, are all good.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of grated parmigiano or other hard cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil and pepper for serving
- Heat olive oil in large pan, add onion, celery and crushed garlic and saute gently until softened (about 10 minutes).
- Add tomato paste, stock, water and beans to pot, bring to boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper, take a ladleful beans from soup, mash them and return to the pot to thicken the soup.
- To cook greens, heat oil in frying pan and add leaves with a dash of water, cook over high heat, tossing until all the greens are wilted. Drain and roughly chop.
- Ladle soup into shallow bowls, top with greens, parmigiano and black pepper, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan (if cheese is omitted)