Take the plunge and dip into your stockpile with this cheap, nutritious combination of store-cupboard ingredients. It requires some forethought (soaking the beans overnight) but you could use tinned ones if you forget. Serve with bread or turn into a complete one-pot meal by adding 2 large handfuls of pasta 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time. For non-vegetarians, the addition of chopped chorizo, again towards the end, adds another layer of flavour and texture. One important tip: when you are cooking dried beans, make sure you use an unsalted cooking liquid. The husk of the bean will not soften if cooked in salt.
300g cannellini or haricot beans, picked clean and soaked overnight
1 litre water or stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 large onion, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced
2 fat sticks of celery, sliced
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp tomato purée
1 tbsp each dried oregano and thyme
60ml good olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Salt and black pepper
Wash and drain the beans. Cover them with water, boil vigorously for 10 minutes and drain again, discarding the water. (This step makes the beans digestible.) Put the beans back with the measured water or stock and the rest of the ingredients, apart from the salt and chopped parsley. Cover and cook for 1-1.5 hours, or until the beans are soft but not disintegrating. Add the salt and parsley and simmer for 5 more minutes before serving.