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.