Like I remembered from my grandmother.
My grandmother prepared all her dishes on a "Leuvense stoof (stove)". The advantage of this is that the back of the stove was ideal to simmer stews through the lower and constant temperature. She let it cook for about 3 hours on very low heat. The smell of good butter and carrots in our house was amazing! I coold smell the mix of fresh laurel and thyme that slowly merges with the rest of the herbs, including freshly grated nutmeg, a classic from grandmother's kitchen and a common spice in the newer kitchens such as the Indian cuisine (curry's).
Dice the onions, heat the butter (make sure it doesn't turn dark or you'll get a slightly different taste) and add the herbs. We always fry the onion and herbs to extract more flavour before we cook them. Same as in Indian cuisine, all the spices and herbs are sautéed before cooking. I tend to use a lot of laurel, as I like the taste and smell a lot, specially in combination with carrots. (and mixed with garlic and white fish...more to come later on)
If you want you can either completely replace the butter with olive oil, or use a 50/50 proportion. In my variation recipe "Minestrone à la Toscana' I apply this ratio because I want to give the dish an Italian accent and it totally changes the overall richness.
My grandma even used a 50/50 ratio of butter and delicious porc fat! I don't but I do add a little piece of porc neck to give it more taste. Just let it fry till golden brown.
I let the onion simmer for about 5-7 mins, now it's time for adding the chopped carrots. You can choose how you want to slice/cut them, just know that if you go for a shorter cooking time, use smaller chunks. Also add the celery stalk. If you don't like the celery in your plate, leave it as a whole stick with leaves, otherwise you can chop it also into a fine brunoise.
Finally add the beans. You can easily use fresh soaked beans, since the dish will cook for about two hours. If you do so, make sure you soak them overnight in salt water (brine), this will make the skin more tender. You don't get this with regular soaking in water.
Now add some salt and pepper and a whole lot of freshly grated nutmeg. They frequently use this in Northern Italy in a very similar dish, classic minestrone. If you are a sweettooth you can add one cube of sugar here. Especially if the carrots are not top quality.
If you want an extra touch of smokyness, add some fenukgreek!
Now for the cooking:
Let the carrots simmer for some 15 mins. Then add some hot water until everything is almost covered. Turn the heat to low, place the lid on and let it simmer for about 1,5 hours. You can open the lid to stir a bit, but do it quickly.
After 1,5 hour when everything should be getting really soft, uncover the pot, cook it a bit further and let the juices evaporate until you have a creamy liquid left. This way you don't have to thicken the sauce, and the flavour will have concentrated due to evaporation.
Serve with some mustard or pickles. You can also serve this with some sautéed or boiled potatoes. My grandfather used to mash his potatoes and carrots and then add fresh pickled red onions on top, and a little pickle vinegar. This with some bangers cooked in pork fat and we were in heaven !!
- Serve with pickled red onion (in 50% vinegar 50% sushi vinegar).
- For those of you who like a little garlic : If you blend 4 loves of fresh garlic and 200 ml olive oil with some fresh parsley, you can add this to the butter when frying the herbs.