Based on a recipe that I found in Septembers edition of Waitrose Kitchen magazine, this is a warming, chunky soup and ideal for lunch or supper. As with any soup of this nature it’s easy to adjust the quantity either up or down but I would just pop any leftovers into the fridge for a couple of days as a convenient ready- meal.

Bean, Bacon and Kale Soup
Serves 8

  • 200g smoked lardons
  • 3 sticks celery, finely sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 leek, halved and finely sliced
  • Pinch dried, crushed chilli’s
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed in sea salt
  • 200g can flageolet beans, rinsed and drained
  • 200g can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 200g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 litres chicken stock
  • 200g kale, shredded

Place the lardons along with the celery, carrots and leek into a large saucepan over a medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Sprinkle in the chilli and garlic, followed by the beans and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the kale and cook for a further 10 minutes or until tender. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

With a high vegetable and bean to meat ratio this is a healthy option and I didn’t feel at all guilty in accompanying mine with freshly made Soft White Baps, a recipe from Dan Lepard’s new book Short & Sweet, The Best of Home Baking. Now, here is a fabulous book which would make an ideal Christmas gift (or simply forget generosity and simply treat yourself!).

I readily admit to having a rather large cookbook collection, a bit of an obsession of mine, but from time to time a book really does set itself apart from the masses in that everything that I have tried actually works!! No tweaking, no guessing, just follow the straightforward recipes and this is no mean feat – baking is an exact science.

Along with my glass of chilled wine I’m in my kitchen enjoying the aroma of freshly baked Dark Chocolate Cookies – a delicious blend of soft brown sugar, vanilla, cocoa and chocolate chips, destined to be a hostess gift. What could be better and so pretty too, all nicely packaged in a cellophane, beribboned bag?

I’ve tried several cake recipes and they have all been delicious but, bizarre as it appears, what do I do with all these sweet treats? If I ate them I would resemble Humpy Dumpty in no time at all. Easy! Set out on a house renovation project – the builders now seem part of my family… Enjoy!