White Bean Soup

350 g/ 12 oz/1 1/2 cups dried cannellini or other white beans
1 bay leaf
75 ml/5 tbsp Olive oil
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
1 Carrot, finely chopped
1 stick Celery, finely chopped
3 medium Tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
5 ml/ 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 2.5 ml/ 1/2 tsp dried thyme
750 ml/1 1/4 pints/3 cups boiling water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, to serve
Serves: 6
Pick over the beans carefully, discarding any stones or other particles. Rinse thoroughly in cold water to ensure that they are clean. Soak in a large bowl of cold water overnight. Drain the beans and place them in a large saucepan of water, bring to the boil and cook for 20 minutes. Drain. Return the beans to the pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil again. Add the bay leaf and cook until the beans are tender for approximately 1-2 hours. Drain again. Remove the Bay leaf.
Puree about three-quarters of the beans in a food processor or pass through a food mill, adding a little water if necessary, to create a smooth paste.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Stir in the onion and cook until it softens. Add the carrot and celery, and cook for 5 minutes more.
Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and thyme. Cook for 6-8 minutes more, stirring often.
Pour in the boiling water. Stir in the beans and the bean puree. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Serve in individual soup bowls, sprinkled with a little olive oil.

COOK'S TIP
Other types of canned cooked beans, such as canneuini or borlotti, may be substituted in this recipe. Simply drain the beans and omit Step 1.