For the love of Crabeye beans….

I picked these beautiful looking dried beans up from my favourite food shop in Manchester called Venus Food . It is is a Turkish, Greek , Mediteranean Supermarket full of fabulous ingredients and I could spend hours browsing the aisles. Crab eye beans may be more known as borlotti beans but also Rosecoco, Saluggia and Roman beans. They have a delicious creaminess and perfect in soups and stews. Cooking dried beans is a lot simpler than you think it just requires a bit of pre planning. They need soaking overnight and so as long as you remember to get them soaking then the cooking part is pretty easy and straight forward. I encourage you to give them a go as they are a lot cheaper than the canned and a small amount of dried beans once soaked goes a long way.

A bit of sun has not only finally encouraged the blossom out but everything else has just come out to play too. The morning dog walk is a great excuse for a bit of foraging and I have been waiting for the wild garlic to finally get underway . Just a modest handful (lets not over harvest it ) is all you need to add to an omelette or stir into a soup. It lends itself to making a brilliant pesto which I added walnuts to instead of pine nuts as they give a real creaminess to the finished pesto. Its delicious stirred into this hearty soup/stew and just looks so goddam good .

Crabeye Bean, Red lentil and Pancetta Soup

Serves 4

100g dried beans such as crabeye, pinto or red kidney beans

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

70g cubed smoked pancetta

pinch chilli flakes or 1 fresh chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp sweet paprika

350g carrots, (peeled weight) diced

200g red lentils

500g passata

1 tsp runny honey

600ml vegetable stock

For the pesto

Large Handful wild garlic leaves (about 50g)

30g walnuts

glug extra virgin olive oil

3tbsp fresh parmesan

1 Place the beans in a bowl and cover with cold water and leave to soak, covered , over night.

2 Drain the beans and place in a saucepan covered with fresh water about 6 cm above the beans and bring to a simmer and cook for 11/2 hours . Keep an eye on the water level and top up with extra water as you go to stop it drying out .

3 Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion gently for 5 minutes until beginning to soften. Stir in the pancetta and cook for a further 3 – 4 minutes .

4 Add the chilli, paprika and carrots and toss all together. Stir through the red lentils then pour in the passata, honey and stock and stir together well. Simmer gently for 25 – 30 minutes until all very tender .

5 Whilst this is cooking make the pesto – place the wild garlic and walnuts in a  food processor and whiz until you have a coarse paste. Tip out into a bowl and stir in the olive oil and parmesan and a pinch of salt.

6 Drain the cooked beans and stir into the soup then simmer for a further 5 minutes then test for seasoning and add a pinch of salt and some ground black pepper. Serve in bowls with a spoonful of the pesto .