The English Garden

Chard, bean & lemon soup

Preserved lemon brings a sharp note to this hearty, healthy autumnal dish that makes the most of seasonal chard and beans


Chard is one of the stalwarts of the kitchen garden, offering abundant fresh green leaves from early spring until autumn, when its growth slows. Frost-hardy, it will survive most winter conditions, and can take light picking during this time. ‘Bright Lights’ and ‘Fordhook Giant’ are straightfo­rward varieties to grow. Chard’s prominent stems, particular­ly on a variety like ‘Fordhook Giant’, take longer to cook than the leaves, so cut them out and start them off first.

If you’ve left homegrown beans to fatten on their stems, you could try them with chard in this hearty autumn soup. If the podded beans are swollen but haven’t dried, they can be cooked right away. Dried beans, often bought in bulk, are cost-effective but need an overnight soak before they are cooked and may require a slightly longer cooking time in addition. Otherwise use tinned beans, which are quick and easy.

“This is a simple and delicious soup, a take on something my mother, Caryn, makes,” says Thyme’s head chef Charlie Hibbert. “The addition of preserved lemon makes it feel a little different and special. It’s very quick to rustle up, plus it keeps for a day or two in the fridge.”


2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 clove of garlic, peeled & sliced

Rind of ½ a preserved lemon, diced 4-6 leaves of chard, stalks and leaves separated, with stalks sliced on an angle and leaves roughly chopped 250g butter beans or cannellini beans (drained weight), soaked and cooked, or jarred or tinned

800ml liquor, use the broth the beans have been cooked in, vegetable stock or water

½ a lemon, juiced

Maldon salt flakes & pepper

Crusty bread, to serve


Place a large pot over a medium heat, add the olive oil and sweat the onion and garlic for five minutes or until it is soft and translucen­t. Add the preserved lemon rind and stir. Then add the chard stalks, along with a splash of water, and cook until they soften. Next, put the chard leaves into the pot and cook for a few minutes until they are tender and any water the leaves have released has been cooked out. Add the cooked beans along with the cooking liquor, stock or water and simmer. Finally, add the lemon juice and season to taste. Serve the soup in bowls with fresh, crusty bread.

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