This is a soup I keep coming back to. The surprise is the fennel. When well cooked, there’s still the hint of anis but it caramelizes beautifully and the combination of fennel, beans and potato are inspired. This weekend I made it with our new crop Cassoulet beans and it was incredible. I also added half an onion, thinly sliced to the fennel mixture. The liquid was about 1/3 bean broth and the rest was wild rice broth I had on hand.
I have never been to the restaurant Moro in London but it’s on my list. Their three cookbooks create a cuisine where the Moors and Christians ditch the fighting for feasting. Spain, the Middle East, road trips and music all get mixed up for a really unique look at familiar cuisines. I can’t imagine being without all three books. This is from Casa Moro, with adaptions.
Recipe: Sopa de Hinojo (Fennel, Potato and White Bean Soup)
½ pound dried Rancho Gordo Royal Corona beans (or Cassoulet or Alubia Blanca)
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
4-5 fennel bulbs, about a pound, outside layer removed, halved and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
3 medium waxy potatoes, about 15 ounces, peeled, diced and lightly salted
1 quart bean liquor and/or water
About 40 threads of saffron, infused in 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh fennel leaves or flat-leaf parsley
Sea salt and black pepper
Bring the beans, covered in about 2 inches of water, to a rapid boil for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and maintain a simmer until they’re soft, about 2 hours or so. Drain the beans, reserving the bean broth. You can soak the beans up to 8 hours if you like but be careful not to oversoak.
In another large saucepan with a heavy bottom, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the diced fennel with a pinch of salt and stir well. Lower the heat and continue to fry for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fennel begins to caramelize and become soft. Now add the garlic, fennel seeds (if using) and the potatoes, mix well and fry for another 5 minutes. Pour on the bean liquor and/or water or stock and the saffron-infused water. Stir well, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any caramelized bits, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft, then add the drained beans. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for a few minutes before stirring in the chopped fennel tops or parsley, and serving with a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.