Poems, Roses and Butterbean Soup

I was entranced to hear that the British poet Ian McMillan used to tuck a poem into his children’s packed lunches before school each morning. I’d pay good money for someone to do that for me, although I did once have a boyfriend who used to put a rose in my handbag every time I left the house. That was, I suppose, a little bit of poetry in itself.

Today the frost has finally come and I have a yearning to make butterbean and peanut soup, a recipe my mother used to make. She would stand at the Aga stirring the soup with the bread knife because she thought it was the only utensil anyone ever really needs. It cuts, it stirs and it spreads she would say, and that pretty much covers most things – unless you have a penchant for piped potatoes which I really don’t.

I’m going to eat my soup reading Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley. And I might even tuck a copy of it into my own handbag afterwards.

Butterbean and Peanut Soup

Serves 6

500g dried butterbeans

1 litre vegetable stock

6 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter

Salt and pepper


Soak the butterbeans in 1.5 litres of cold water for 24 hours. Drain and rinse well and then put them in a pan with another 1.5 litres of cold water. Bring to the boil and let the beans bubble briskly for 10 minutes, skimming the water as you go. After ten minutes reduce the heat and cook gently for another ten minutes. Tip away the water and replace with the vegetable stock – Marigold Bouillon powder is good for this – and bring to a gentle boil. Add the peanut butter and continue to cook gently for an hour, adding more water if you need to.

Adjust the seasoning at the end and serve with a scattering of chopped chives. This, I have to confess, is as much an aesthetic as a taste thing. Beige soup needs a little colour in its life, just like we do.

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