Soak the beans in water overnight. If you have forgotten to do this, don't worry. There are debates about soaking or not soaking beans, however unsoaked beans will take a little longer to cook.
Drain the soaked white beans and place in a large stock pot with the water or stock.
Bring to a boil and then simmer on medium low. (You can also cook the beans in a pressure cooker for 20 minutes, release pressure, uncover and continue with recipe.)
While the beans are gently cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Sauté the garlic, onion and celery in the olive oil over low heat until limp, about 5 minutes.
Add to the bean pot.
In the same pan, sauté the sausage over low until some of the fat runs out. With a slotted spoon, add the sausage to the pot. (Optional)
Now add the tomato paste, thyme, and some ground pepper.
Simmer the soup on medium low.
At this point I taste for salt and add as needed. Stock and sausages are both salty, so if you use them you will add less salt to soup.
While the soup is cooking, prepare the kale. Wash the kale and shake off some of the water. Remove the stems. Slice down the middle of each leaf and remove the main vein. Stack the leaves together and slice across into ¼” ribbons. Slice across the other direction to halve the ribbons.
Add the kale to the soup.
Simmer the soup until the beans are tender. Taste for salt again and adjust.
The soup can be eaten at this point, or cooked longer until the beans break down more and create a thicker soup.
This soup is always good reheated.
No rules here so use your imagination.
Small shell pasta is good added with the kale, but will soak up some of the stock, so add more water.
Some flecks of red chili or Aleppo pepper are good to spice it up.
Recipe by Jane O'Riordan
Terre Rouge and Easton Wines