When it comes to white beans, I think cannellini. I usually go for the ones in the tin and never really think much about them. Then one day Lady Jo asked me, "what's a white bean?" It seems like a simple question but it's a loaded one. I answered definitively, "Cannellini", quickly followed by "Non?— oh, you mean haricot blanc?", then with a tinge of doubt, "Flageolet?"
Well, a month later I find myself with a sack of white dried beans my husband picked up at the market and they were not any of the white beans mentioned above. These are called Soissons beans and resemble a lima bean.
Apparently this variety of bean is culitvated in Soissons located in Aisne, a department north east of Paris.
These Soissons beans turned out to be plump and flavorful. Now the question is to soak or not to soak your dried beans beforehand.
White Bean Spinach Soup
• 500 grams dried white beans
• 1 onion, chopped finely
• 3 cloves garlic
• 1 bay leaf
• 1.5 litre stock
• 150 grams spinach
Soak white beans in water overnight.
In a large Dutch oven, add some olive oil and sauté the onions and garlic until the onions becomes translucent and turn golden.
Add the stock and beans, cook until boiling point, then turn down the heat, cover and let it simmer for about two to two and a half hours or until the beans are tender.
Add the spinach and keep the lid on. Let it cook until it wilts, stirring occasionally.
Let the soup cool. Scoop out the spinach and half of the beans and put it in a blender and whiz it up into a soup.
Pour it back in with the rest of the beans. Reheat on low temperature before serving.