Comfort Food Week: Butterbean and Pancetta Soup

You don’t need me to tell you how comforting soup is. It heals you when you’re ill, it warms you, and it generally contains things that are good for you. It is for these reasons that I knew I had to purchase a new blender, after my old one broke a couple of years ago. Two soupless winters were enough for me, so I bit the bullet and bought a new one.

Of course, now I wonder what took me so long, as I settled for this K-Mix blender which makes soup a million times smoother and more velvety than my old one did, and I’m having a great time turning everything and anything into soup. In fact, I’m going a bit soup-crazy at the moment; I’ve started buying reduced veggies from the supermarket so I can turn them into soup (as well as reduced fruit to make smoothies with), which is a really great way to save money! Also it’s going to stop me getting bored of eating the same few soups that I’ve made so far and I’m taking to work every day.

My current favourite soup is this butterbean and pancetta soup. I came across the recipe whilst browsing BBC Good Food, and making soup from beans is not something that I had ever considered before. This is one of those recipes that you think might be really bland and dull because it’s got so few ingredients, and, to be honest, the recipe on its own is a little bland. I added a lot more onion and garlic than the original recipe said, which makes it much more flavoursome and interesting, especially for a garlic freak like me. Another thing about this soup is that I wouldn’t dream of eating it without the pancetta. It’s what makes the soup worth making. Obviously you could use smoked bacon, but it’s the smoky flavour of the pancetta, and its crispness, coupled with the smooth, velvety soup that makes this so good. And considering this soup takes less than half an hour to make from scratch, it’s great for a last-minute lunch or dinner when you’ve got nothing but bacon in the fridge and don’t want carbonara (I seem to find myself in this situation a lot). And one last point: this soup is really really filling. I photographed it here with a slice of bread halved, and I only ate one half with it as it was so filling (I admit though I did eat the other half with butter and jam, oops). If I’d filled these terrines with the soup I’d have had to give up half way through. So be careful when serving!

Butterbean and pancetta soup

Serves 2

1 carton or tin of butterbeans

1 large onion

2 cloves garlic, crushed

A knob of butter

A handful of thyme stalks, stripped of leaves, or 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme

500ml vegetable stock, plus more to thin to preferred consistency

6 rashers of pancetta or smoked bacon

Snipped chives, to serve

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the butter in a pan and melt on a medium heat. Chop the onions roughly (the best thing about pureeing soup is that nothing needs to be chopped particularly carefully) and soften in the butter for 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

Drain the butterbeans and add them to the pan with the thyme and stock. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Put the pancetta or bacon on a tray and cook in the oven for 5 minutes or until crisp. Blend the soup until smooth, adding more stock if necessary to thin it down as you like it. Serve with chives snipped over and pieces of pancetta on top. Enjoy!