Ribollita (Tuscan Bean Soup)

Ingredients:
For Cooking the Beans:
225g dried kidney beans, soaked for about 12 hours in cold water
1 onion, cut into quarters
1 small celery stalk, cut into pieces
3 garlic cloves, sliced
sprigs of fresh sage, rosemary and parsley
For the Soup:
5 Tbsp. Herbes de Provence Olive Oil
1 onion, sliced
1/2–1 tsp. crushed dried chillies
salt and black pepper
2 ripe fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. tomato puree
3 potatoes, cut into small cubes
2 carrots, cut into small cubes
1 small leek, white and green parts, cut small
3 celery stalks, cut into small pieces
250g kale, shredded
200g savoy cabbage, shredded
2 garlic cloves, sliced
3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme
To Serve:
1 or 2 mild onions
6–8 slices of country-style bread
2 garlic cloves, cut in half
Herbes de Provence Olive Oil

Instructions:

Drain and rinse the beans, then put them in a large, heavy pot with all the ingredients for cooking the beans. Pour in enough cold water to cover the beans by about 5cm, and bring slowly to the boil. Cover the pan and cook very gently until they are very tender – about 1½ hours. Using a slotted spoon, lift the beans out of the liquid (leave the herbs and vegetables in the stock). Puree 3/4 of the beans coarsely in a food processor, then turn them into a bowl. Leave the remaining beans whole and set aside. Strain the cooking liquid into another bowl, discarding the herbs and vegetables. Put the olive oil into the pot in which the beans were cooked. Add the onion and chillies, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and fry for about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tomato puree and cook for 2–3 minutes, then mix in the bean puree. Stir for a couple of minutes to let it take up all the flavors, then add all the other vegetables, plus the garlic and thyme. Measure the bean cooking liquid and add enough water to make it up to about 1.5 litres. Add this to the pot with salt, and bring to the boil, then cook over the lowest possible heat for about 2 hours. Add in some pepper and check for seasoning. Remove from the heat and leave overnight. The next day, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Mix the whole beans into the soup. Slice the onions very finely and arrange in a thin layer over the surface of the soup. Put the pot in the oven and cook until the onion is tender; this will take about 1 hour. Drizzle with Herbes de Provence Olive Oil and serve.

Note: For this Tuscan bean soup, the beans need to soak for 12 hours and the soup prepared a day in advance to allow the flavors to develop before it is reheated, hence its name, "reboiled". The soup really comes alive when topped with good quality olive oil to finish.

Made for Customer Appreciation Days 2015)

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