This is called everybody’s favourite white bean soup because it’s really flavourful and versatile enough to keep a crowd happy or just yourself.
The concept for this soup is that it can be eaten as is or topped with different things to make it interesting for a dinner crowd or for yourself if you’re eating it over multiple days. Each day can be something new.
If you use olive oil, it’s vegan. It’s also dairy-free, gluten-free, and grain-free. If you have a crowd to feed with mixed preferences you can make some interesting toppings like roasted chicken, homemade croutons, and burst tomatoes with cheese.
The inspiration for this soup came from my mother in law Ghinita. Ghinita is a fantastic cook. She’s put together some of the most beautiful meals I’ve ever been part of. Her holiday roasts are unsurpassed. She has the kind of talent that lives in the hands, in muscle memory, and only develops after many years of devoted practice in the kitchen.
One winter when Ghinita was visiting us in Amsterdam she put some white beans and onion to stew in a small pot on the stove. Just white beans and onions.
It was unassuming at first. I thought she might add more to it. But she didn’t. Every so often she would check on it, give it a stir and then leave it again. It stewed for hours that night. I wasn’t expecting much from such basic ingredients…but soon the smell of comfort and home started filling the kitchen.
I can’t remember why but we didn’t get to the stewed beans that night. Early the next morning Ghinita and the rest of my husband’s family caught their flight back to Toronto and we were left to try the stewed beans on our own.
I was so curious I couldn’t help myself. I grabbed a big spoon and tried my first taste right out of the pot. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was a revelation. It didn’t taste like it was just white beans and onion. It tasted complex, nuanced, multifaceted and just…good. We ate it as a stew, we smeared it on bread, we had it with sausages…we ate every last bit of that bean and onion stew scraping the pot clean.
So when I picked up a kilogram of dry white beans at the Turkish grocer yesterday, in the back of my mind I had that memory of a super simple white bean stew with a ton of flavour.
I didn’t add any garlic because I wanted to let the beans and onion make magic, but I did add thyme and celery both for pragmatic reasons (I have a lot of fresh thyme and celery that needs to be used) but also because they wouldn’t detract from the strong flavour profile created by simple ingredients and slow cooking.
Crispy roast chicken quarters, smoked paprika and chilli oil
To roast the chicken quarters:
Rinse and pat dry with paper towel or kitchen cloth. Rub with olive oil and sprinkle on both sides with salt. Bake at 200 C / 400 F for 45 minutes.
Homemade sourdough herb and sumac croutons
A few weeks ago I went to a sourdough workshop in Amsterdam and came home with some starter. I’ve been experimenting with it and so had some stale sourdough loaf left over, which was perfect for repurposing into croutons.
The key is to get the stale bread rehydrated with oil, highly flavoured with aromatics, and crisped in a hot pan. It isn’t essential that you use sourdough – you can use any stale bread.
I cut my stale bread slices into cubes, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, sumac, mint, rosemary and oregano (I used Euroma Mediterranean herb blend) and then crisped it up in a hot skillet for a few minutes. You could use a lot of different seasonings like garlic powder, smoked paprika, everything bagel seasoning, seasoning salt etc. etc. the possibilities are endless.
Olive oil, lemon, burst tomatoes and gruyere
This one is for those that like a fresher note. You can substitute any cheese you like for the gruyere or omit entirely (which also keeps it vegan).
To burst the tomatoes:
Drizzle with olive oil and bake in a hot oven at 200 C / 400 F for 5 – 7 minutes.
I left the dry beans to soak for a few hours and in the meantime made some roast chicken quarters. When cleaning the chicken quarters I had a few pieces of fat that were bound for the bin so I chucked them into my Dutch oven and rendered out the fat to use in my stew. This isn’t absolutely essential of course and you can just as easily use olive oil or any other fat you prefer.
That’s it for now. Until next time,
Everybody’s Favourite White Bean & Thyme Soup
Simple and flavourful white bean and thyme soup that tastes great as it is or make it your own with roast chicken, sumac & herb croutons, or burst tomatoes & cheese.
- Prep Time: 4 hours
- Cook Time: 3 hours
- Total Time: 7 hours
- Yield: 6 1x
- Category: Soup
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Global
- 500 grams of dry white beans (like cannellini)
- 2 tbsp olive oil, butter, rendered fat or whatever other fat you like using
- Bunch of fresh thyme
- 2 small onions, finely diced
- 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp bouillon powder (I used Herbamare)
- Rinse the dry beans then soak in a large bowl with water for at least 4 hours or until they’ve just about doubled in size.
- Drain the beans and set aside.
- Heat your oil/fat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Add the onions and a large bunch of thyme with the stalks on, up the heat a little and cook for another 5 minutes or so until it all smells nice.
- Add the celery and cook a few more minutes.
- Add the beans to the pot and then the bouillon and enough water to fully cover.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and cook covered for about 3 hours.
- Pick out the stalks from the pot (they will have separated from the leaves).
- Use a large potato masher to mash down the soup a few times to thicken and make it creamier. If you don’t have a potato masher you can remove about a cup of the beans and either blend or mash with a fork and return to the pot.
- Serve as it, with a drizzle of olive oil, or with a cornucopia of toppings.
If you want to substitute canned beans then you’ll need about 5 standard sized cans worth.
I made roast chicken at the same time as the soup so I rendered the fat out of a few cast-off pieces of chicken skin and used that as the fat in my soup. You can do the same with chicken drippings, bacon drippings or any other fat you want to make use of.
The Herbamare bouillon I used is very salty and so i didn’t need to add any additional salt. if you’re using a low-sodium bouillon or low-sodium stock instead of water then you may need to add more salt.
If the liquid reduces too much, add a bit more. I added about a cup of water 2 or 3 times during cooking but my soup still came out quite thick (which I wanted). If you want a thinner soup then add more water at the one and two hour marks.
Keywords: soup, white beans, white bean soup, white bean and thyme soup, beans
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