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Ham and cannellini bean soup

Slow and patient simmering reaps flavoursome rewards.

By Lisa Featherby
  • 15 mins preparation
  • 4 hrs 40 mins cooking (plus soaking)
  • Serves 6
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Ham and cannellini bean soup
Ham bones tend to release a lot of fat, but avoid skimming the stock too much – the fat adds a level of depth and complexity that's impossible to replicate. Start this recipe a day ahead to soak the beans.


  • 1 ham bone, halved, or 2 small ham hocks
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 250 gm dried white beans (cannellini), soaked in cold water overnight
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • Thinly sliced flat-leaf parsley, crusty bread and butter, to serve


  • 1
    Place ham bone in a large saucepan with 4 litres cold water, or enough to cover. Bring to the boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until broth is well flavoured and meat is falling from the bone (2½-3 hours). Remove meat and bones and when cool enough to handle, shred meat from bones. Discard bones. (If you're using hocks, consider cutting the skin into small pieces and using it in the soup, it's delicious; or discard it.)
  • 2
    Heat oil in a separate large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and stir until starting to soften (3-5 minutes), then add garlic and stir until just softened (3-5 minutes). Add thyme, beans and 2.5 litres ham stock (remainder can be cooled and frozen for another soup), bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes, then add carrot and simmer until carrot is soft and beans are very tender (20-40 minutes).
  • 3
    Stir ham through soup, season to taste, ladle soup into bowls, scatter with parsley and serve with bread and butter.