Leek, Celery and Cannellini Bean Soup with Green Peppercorns and Pancetta

This is a good mix of flavours and textures. The sweetness of the leeks goes well with earthy beans and salty crisp pancetta. Celery gives a bit of crunch and greenness, and the green peppercorns leave a mild smoky aftertaste.


  • cannellini beans 200 g, soaked for several hours (or a 400 g/14 oz can)
  • butter or vegetable oil 4 tbsp
  • fat leeks 4, white part only, sliced
  • celery stalks 5, quartered lengthways and diced
  • fresh bay leaf 1
  • thyme sprigs 2
  • chicken stock 1.5 litres/ pints, preferably home-made
  • dried green peppercorns 2 tbsp, lightly crushed
  • salt to taste
  • pancetta 75 g/ oz
  • double cream 3–4 tbsp
  • chives 3 tbsp, chopped


If using dried beans, drain the soaking water and put the beans in a saucepan with fresh water to cover. Bring to the boil, boil for 15 minutes, then simmer for about 30 minutes more until the beans are just tender but not disintegrating. Drain, reserving the liquid. (If using canned beans, drain and rinse thoroughly.)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the leeks, celery, bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Cover and sweat over medium-low heat for 15 minutes until slightly soft.

Pour in the stock, then add the crushed peppercorns and the cooked or canned beans. Season with a little salt to taste, bearing in mind the saltiness of the pancetta. Simmer, partly covered, for another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fry the pancetta in a non-stick pan until crisp. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.

Fish out the bay leaf and thyme from the soup. Purée about two-thirds of the mixture in a food processor, then pour this back into the pan and reheat gently, stirring. If the soup seems too thick, use some of the reserved bean water or a bit more stock to thin it down.

Ladle into shallow soup plates. Swirl in a little cream and sprinkle with the chives. Crumble the pancetta over the top.