This winter seems to have been very long! The wet, grey days are beginning to take their toll, although any time the sun does manage to make an appearance is a wonderful moment to behold! March is the beginning of spring; the crocuses and daffodils have bravely popped their colourful heads up, but I definitely don’t feel it’s time to move from comforting soups and stews to lighter, more spring-like meals.
So with this in mind, I’d like share with you this rather wonderfully comforting and tasty stew. It’s rich, nurturing and so thick you can easily make it into a soup with a little more stock. Using seasonal produce like carrots and kale, it’s packed full of lovely antioxidant nutrients and phytonutrients which will help support the immune system and keep some of the bugs that are going around away.
The best way to make the magical nutrients in kale available is to chop it at least 20 minutes before you want to cook it. This enables the enzymes which are activated when the leaves and stems are chopped to free up the nutrients. As the kale goes in last, you can do the chopping when the first lot of veg are sautéing in the pan and they’ll be at their full nutrient-releasing potential when it’s time to pop it in. If you want to know more about the amazing phytonutrients in kale, check out this old blog post here.
The butter beans (or lima beans if you’re reading this in the US and elsewhere) add some extra gut-friendly fibre as well as plant protein. As a child, I really disliked butter beans, but now I enjoy adding them into dishes (still wouldn’t eat them plain though). They have a starchy almost buttery texture – hence the name – but haven’t been anywhere near the butter dish! Apart from fibre, butter beans also have good amounts of plant-based protein, iron, manganese and potassium. It’s star micronutrient though is molybdenum.
If you’ve not heard of molybdenum, then don’t worry – it’s not commonly talked about. There is no recommended daily amount nor is it commonly deficient if someone eats a good balanced diet. But if you have a highly processed, high animal product and low carbohydrate diet then it has the potential to become an issue as it’s found mainly in beans, legumes, nuts and whole grains.
Molybdenum is a key element of many enzymes, particularly ones involved in breaking down toxins in the body. For example, if you are intolerant to sulfites, a commonly used preservative, particularly in fresh salads and wine, then it could be you are low in this essential micronutrient. Molybdenum is part of the enzyme sulphite oxidase that helps break down and detoxify sulfites. If you boost your intact of molybdenum by eating more butter beans and other whole foods, it may help you react less strongly. Which is a very good thing as reactions – like a sudden fast heart beat, headaches or disorientation – can be quite unpleasant.
This recipe doesn’t take long to make and can be easily adapted to make a soup or stew – just add more or less stock. If you’re going for the stew option, serve with cooked wholegrain rice or quinoa or with a baked potato. It freezes well too – that’s if it doesn’t all get eaten up in one go! Enjoy.
Vegetable and butter bean soup or stew
- 1 medium onion, white or red chopped
- 1 large carrot washed or peeled and chopped
- 1 large celery stick washed and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 400 g chopped tinned tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme and/or sage
- 700 ml vegetable stock
- 400 g tin of butter beans drained and rinsed
- salt and pepper to taste
- 100 g kale washed and chopped
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of water in the base of a large saucepan. Add the onion, carrot and celery with a pinch of salt. Sauté for 5 minutes on a medium-low heat with the lid on to soften the veg.
- Add the garlic and tiny bit more water if needed and cook for another minute then pour in the tinned tomatoes, thyme and enough of the stock to cover the vegetables. Stir well, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes.
- Add the butter beans to the pan with a bit more stock if needed and cook for 5 minutes.
- If you are serving this as a stew, add the kale to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes. Season to taste. Serve alongside whole-grain rice or grain of choice.
- If you are serving as a soup, turn off the heat and remove 3-4 ladles of the mix into a bowl. Blitz the rest of the mix in the pan with a hand blender to break down and thicken the soup. Return the reserved mix to the pan and add more stock as needed to get a good soup consistency. Add the kale to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.