1 lb (500 g) fresh or dried white haricot beans
1 small onion, peeled
1 medium-sized carrot, peeled
2 bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary, bound with kitchen string (see method)
or pinch powdered rosemary
2 thick rashers streaky bacon, chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley
salt and black peppercorns
If using dried beans, soak them in plenty of cold water with 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda overnight. Drain, then rinse well. If using fresh beans, simply rinse and drain. Place them in a large, heavy- bottomed flameproof casserole dish with the onion, carrot, the bay leaves and the sprig of rosemary, with kitchen thread wound tightly round it to prevent the tough leaves dropping off during cooking. Add a few whole peppercorns and the bacon. Tie the rosemary and peppercorns in a small piece of muslin if preferred. Add sufficient water to cover all the ingredients easily and bring to the boil, skimming off the scum that rises to the surface. Cover with the lid, leaving a small gap to allow the steam to escape and simmer gently over a low heat for about 2 hours, stirring now and then, until the beans are very tender. Add salt to taste just before they are done.
Use a slotted spoon or ladle to transfer portions of the beans to individual bowls or deep plates; spoon a little of the liquid over them. Sprinkle sparingly with wine vinegar, with plenty of freshly ground black pepper, the chopped parsley, and a little oil.