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This thick, wholesome, protein-packed soup is a perfect winter warmer. Lentils, barley and dried fava beans are the baseline ingredients, to which two other varieties of bean should be added. In Positano, Le Sirenuse’s executive chef Gennaro Russo uses two heirloom local varieties – fagioli sciuscielli, a small, delicate cultivar from Castellamare di Stabia, and fagioli di Controne, a round, white variety from the town of the same name in the inland Cilento region, south-east of Salerno. You could easily use azuki beans, black-eyed peas or even small chickpeas or garbanzos as a subsitute for the fagioli sciuscielli, while Controne beans can be replaced by cannellini, butterbeans, pinto, great northern or navy beans. Added at the end, the pan-tossed shrimps are not just an aesthetic touch; the sweet flesh makes for a good flavor contrast with the smooth nuttiness of the beans.
150g (1 cup) brown lentils
150g (1 cup) pearl barley
150g (1 cup) dried fava beans
150g (1 cup) small beans such as azuki or black-eyed peas
150g (1 cup) larger white or pale beans like cannellini, butterbeans or navy
20 fresh shrimps
salt and pepper to taste
There are contrasting theories about whether or not to salt beans while soaking or cooking, but La Sponda chef Gennaro Russo recommends the traditional approach, which is to add salt only when the beans are cooked and soft. For this recipe, the best moment to do this is when you assemble all the ingredients in the casserole pan at the end.
Wash the favas and the other two types of bean, then soak separately overnight in unsalted water (to speed this process up, cover with water, bring to the boil, turn off the heat, cover, and leave to soak). The next day, in separate saucepans, bring the lentils, barley, and soaked beans to boil, and simmer until soft.
Reserve half of each of the grains or pulses, and place the rest together in a blender, with enough cooking water to form a smooth, velvety broth. Place this in a casserole pan with the reserved lentils, barley and beans, and heat through. Meanwhile, peel the shrimps, and toss them in a pan with a little olive oil and rosemary until golden. Serve the soup in individual bowls topped with the shrimps and a few small sprigs of fresh rosemary, and add a drizzle of oil . Depending on personal preference, you may wish to serve this with a small side bowl of bread croutons.
The soup is also good on its own, without the shrimps. To ring the changes on the latter, try replacing then with baby calamari, or strips of beef tongue.
Pictures credits: ©Roberto Salomone