The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

garlic, white bean and rosemary soup

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It is two and a half years since the introduction in the UK of a 5p levy on plastic carrier bags, and there can be no doubt at all that it has transformed our shopping habits. In that time, plastic carrier bag usage has dropped by over 85%, and most of us now routinely take our own reusable bags when we go shopping.

These figures are a convincing argument that government interventions can and do alter consumer behaviour. Now, surely, it is time to target the excessive packaging that accompanies so much of the food we buy from supermarkets. A new levy, similar to the plastic bag “tax”, added to the price of foods that come with unnecessary or unrecyclable packaging could once again radically transform consumer behaviour, as well as that of supermarkets and producers.

From the supermarkets’ perspective, a key advantage of all this packaging is that it helps protect food which might need to be transported thousands of miles before it reaches our shopping basket. It can also help to prolong the fresh appearance of some foods. In some cases, packaging helps to ramp up sales – a shopper may only want three pears, for example, but has to buy four because they are sold only in plastic packs of four.

None of these “advantages” are in the favour of the consumer, however, still less the environment.

I was heartened, therefore, to see some UK consumers taken direct action this week over this very issue. A group of around 25 customers staged a protest over excessive packaging at a Tesco supermarket in Keynsham, Somerset. Having purchased their shopping they then, en masse, removed all the unnecessary wrapping and left it at the tills. I really hope this gentle protest encourages similar direct consumer action elsewhere.

A levy which encourages less food packaging would in turn help to slow the shocking pace of environmental damage caused by plastic waste.

It would also allow us shoppers more opportunities to purchase only the exact amount of food we want, which in turn would help to reduce domestic food waste.

And it would benefit local producers, whose food requires less packaging because it has less far to travel, and is likely to be much fresher than imported foods that may have taken days to get here.


On to the recipe.

This elegant soup, with its fragrant combination of rosemary, bay and garlic, is surprisingly quick and simple to make.

It would make an elegant starter course for a dinner party, or a healthy lunch, served with good quality, crusty bread.

garlic, white bean and rosemary soup


2 400g cans organic cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
½ tsp sea salt
1 bay leaf
1.2 litres vegetable stock
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


1. Pour the olive oil in a pan that has a lid and place over a medium heat. Add the onions and the celery and cook, stirring for 5 minutes or until the onion turns soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the stock, the beans, the bay leaf and rosemary sprigs plus the sea salt. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat. Cover with the lid and continue to simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for at least ten minutes, then remove the bay leaf and rosemary sprigs.

3. Transfer the soup to a blender and process until smooth and creamy (you will need to do this in batches). Pour the soup into a clean saucepan. Place over a low heat and bring to the edge of a simmer.

4. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and some good quality bread.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan

Tags: , , ,

22 replies

  1. The protest in Keynsham appeared in our Australia news. I hope others pursue the rage. Recipe looks grand.

  2. Lovely combination, it’s so appetizing 😍

  3. I love all three of those main ingredients and that soup looks delicious. I would think, in a slightly different iteration, it would make a really good dip or topping for crostini.

  4. I like you recipe! 🙂 but for me war against plastic bags is very important. I ask you all to take action in September to clean up our nature

  5. Thank you Ruta, both for your comments and also for the link to the “Let’s Do It! World” campaign. What a great initiative! Steve 🙂

  6. Nice recipe

  7. Amazing photography! With that three ingredients you made a stunning soup. Beautiful share.

  8. ahhh, you’ve done it again!

  9. What an interesting combination of ingredients, the soup must be so tasty!

  10. Dying to try this soup recipe, Steve. Here’s an apt poem of mine in return:

    What Are We Heading For?

    Is all our recycling recycled?
    It’s a question that’s puzzling me
    Is the actual truth being stifled
    And is it all getting dumped out at sea?

    Five trillion pieces of plastic
    Are floating out there on our oceans
    It’s a figure I find quite fantastic
    What to do, right now, I’ve no notions.

    I don’t care if it’s flotsam or jetsam
    It’s still a global disgrace
    The world needs to urgently set some
    Environmental awareness in place.

    Now, imagine an ocean that’s lifeless
    A sea that’s no longer wet
    A heaving plain of detritus
    The way we’re going that’s what we will get.

    My plea is to those who’re in power
    To take this issue, by the scruff of the neck
    Otherwise, hour by hour
    Plastic – will kill us, by Heck!!

  11. I read today that plastic waste in the sea has gone down by 15%. I’m really not sure it can be that high but it’s a good sign if it is. I do love bean soups. So creamy and comforting for the thermos on the allotment

    • Thank you Urvashi. Your last sentence made me realise how I miss my allotment, although I now have an easier journey into the back garden to tend my modest vegetable and fruit patch. Steve

  12. In Australia the plastic ban is developing. South Australia banned plastic bags nine years ago. In Victoria where I live Aldi doesn’t have them and The other chains a beginning to phase them out with Government involvement. In most supermarkets here I can go in with my cloth bag and buy individual items of most fruit and vegetable. Celery is a problem because I can not get through one before it goes bad. It there a substitute I can use in your bean suit?

    • Here in the UK the vast majority of shoppers also now use their own canvas or jute bags now too, thanks to the plastic bag tax. This represents a major change.
      In terms of adapting the recipe I would suggest simply omitting the celery, which essentially adds body and only a mild amount of flavour, and slightly reducing the amount of stock to compensate. Steve


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