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Winter White Bean Soup

Okay, time for some comfort food. This soup is definitely hearty enough for a main course and it’s really perfect when it’s cold and snowy outside. I think another reason I like it is that it’s a good backup dinner, I have most of the ingredients in the house all the time, including a smoked ham hock in the freezer. The fresh stuff, like the carrots, fennel bulb and celery, are things that don’t go off very fast so if dinner plans change during the week I can put off making soup for at least a week or more with out feeling like things are going to waste.

Winter White Bean Soup
1 bulb of garlic top sliced off and roasted (instructions below)
2 tbsp  of Olive Oil
3 cloves of garlic chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 big onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 smoked ham hock (if you can’t find this you could use a small gammon shank)
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried
1 tsp dried fennel seeds
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 15oz cans of white cannellini beans – rinsed and drained (approx 6 cups)
5 cups of chicken stock (I use knorr stock cubes or the swason chicken broth in carton)
10 oz bag baby spinach or a small bunch of escarole

First you’ll need to roast the garlic bulb. Do this by slicing off the top (just the tips of the cloves, no need to peel) sprinkle it with just a touch of olive oil, wrap it in tin foil and roast it in a 400F (200C) oven for about 40 minutes or until the garlic is soft. While the garlic is roasting take a large saucepan or dutch oven, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and over a medium high heat saute the garlic, carrot, onion, celery, fennel bulb, smoked ham hock, rosemary, fennel seeds, salt and pepper and the red pepper flakes. Saute for about 10 minutes until everything is softened, then add the chicken stock, beans and the squeezed out roasted garlic. Raise the heat to high, bring the soup to a boil and then return to a low heat to simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Using a stick blender purée until the soup is thick but still a bit chunky, add the spinach or escarole and cook until it wilts then serve. – Melani

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