The days are suddenly longer, but the weather here in London has been miserable. Not at all spring-like. Our once in a lifetime harsh winter has delayed the daffodils’ blooming, the rhubarb ripening, and the lambs’ birthing. Meanwhile, my husband’s trip to Baghdad has blossomed from a 2 week sojourn to a 6 week camp. Needless to say, March wasn’t a good month, and with little to inspire me in the kitchen, I took to boiling up big pots of soup to keep me company. A favorite has been a hearty ham and white bean soup that my mother often makes, and the memory of eating it at home with her has kept me from feeling homesick (although still envious of the mild weather they’ve been having in Washington DC). The special ingredient is peanut butter, which gives it a distinct flavor, although I defy anyone from identifying it if they didn’t know. Here goes:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cups diced smoked ham
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
16 oz. can white beans, drained
16 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
parsley for garnish
Heat the oil in a saucepan and sautee the onions until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, garlic and ham and stir for about 4 more minutes. Add the remaining ingredients (except the peanut butter and parsley) and allow them to all simmer together for about 20 minutes, until all of the vegetables are soft. Stir in the peanut butter and garnish the bowls with chopped parsley.
I have been eating this with crusty bread and butter. Simple but delicious and better the next day once all of the flavors come together.