The time of year it is and the way I’m feeling says soup. Plain and simple. It’s cold without and cold within (cold and muzzy within my head, that is). My first thought was carrot and ginger soup (which is a favourite) but then I drifted towards something more substantial, and that lead me to think of this black bean recipe, which I adore. It’s one of those recipes that doesn’t have a long or complicated list of ingredients, but those that are featured just seem to combine to great effect. In its original format, the recipe is for a thick stew but, with a little more liquid added, it makes for a really hearty, chunky soup with a nice chili kick. The black beans used are those that are popular in Latin American dishes (sometimes called black turtle beans), as opposed to the (typically fermented) black soy beans found in Asian dishes, which are a different beast entirely. In any case, the soup version of this dish is exactly what I felt like today. That and a couple of hot whiskeys. Good for what ails ya.
Black Bean Charros: A Mexican Soup or Stew
This is a Mexican recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s great World Vegetarian collection, just very modestly tweaked in terms of the proportions of onion and tomato used.
- 225g dried black turtle beans, soaked overnight (or use the quick-soak method, see right); alternatively, if you can get tinned black beans, you’ll need around 5-600g drained weight
- 1 x 400g can of tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 0.5 – 1 jalapeno or other fresh green chili, finely chopped
- 2 tblsps coriander leaves, finely chopped
- 1.5 tsp salt or to taste
- If using dried beans and you haven’t had time enough to soak them overnight, you can quick-soak them as follows: cover with several inches of cold water, bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to soak for at least an hour in the heated water.
- Drain the soaked beans, put into a heavy saucepan with about 1 litre of fresh water. Bring up to the boil, then simmer, partially covered, for about 1.5 hours or until the beans are tender. Alternatively, if you have a pressure cooker, they’ll only need about 10-12 minutes of cooking once they’ve been brought up to pressure.
- If using tinned black beans, just drain and rinse them.
- Remove about half of the cooked beans and place in a blender or food processor along with the salt and a little of the cooking liquid (or water, if using tinned beans). Blend to a rough puree.
- Heat some oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat, add the garlic and onion, stir and fry until golden.
- Add the tomatoes and the chili to the pan, bring to a simmer and cook gently, covered, for 10 minutes.
- Add the coriander, the bean puree and the remaining un-pureed beans to the pan. Stir to mix and, if needs be, use some of the liquid that the beans were cooked in to thin the mixture to the desired consistency (or use water, if the beans were tinned).
- Stir and bring to a simmer, then simmer gently for 5 minutes.
- If you keep the mixture fairly thick, you can serve as a stew with rice or tortillas. Alternatively, if it’s a bit more liquid, it works really well as a chunky soup and, in either case, a dollop of sour cream makes a pretty good addition, if dairy is your thing.
- Stew or soup for 4-5 bodies that need warming up.