15 February 2010
Black Bean and Back Bacon Soup
I love retreating to my kitchen at any point in the year, but in mid-winter's depths, it's particularly satsifying. Even in a winter as mild as our current one, pottering in a warmed kitchen, aromas from slower-cooked foods wafting throughout the house is more than comforting.
There's a sense of accomplishment to be had when making a meal that requires a number of steps and components. Take lasagne for example: bechamel and tomato sauces, meat and (or) veggie fillings, pasta-making for those inclined--a delicous and hearty winter dish, to be sure, but also one that can eat up the better part of a day in preparation and cooking.
Unfortunately, my life does not allow for the daily luxury of hours of cooking for one meal; often I'll spend a Sunday sastifying my need to ponder my way through several days' worth of meals: a Sunday roasted chicken transforms several times over until even the scraps are done--sandwiches, quesadillas, soups, pastas and salads.
But more and more often, my lazy cooking Sundays are becoming less and less frequent. I'll still bake my breakfast pastries, but the grand meal with built-in chameleon-like properties doesn't happen as regularly. On days where I can't fiddle with ingredients, I turn to hearty soups and stews to satsify me throughout the week. The fact the flavours improve as time passes is a benefit. The fact that it only takes one or two minutes to reheat and have a satisfying meal, coupled with half a bagel, is the greater beneft.
I see most soups as non-recipe recipes, and often what I do is just tip in ingredients in quantities dictated by my mood and my pantry. I tend to like my bean soups on the viscous end of the scale, so I use a lesser quantity of stock, but if you like a more brothy soup, by all means add more liquid. There are days where I'll balance it with Thai sweet chilli garlic paste or with a bit of maple syrup. I find bacon of all types salty, so I rarely have to add more salt, but it's up to you.
I don't think of this soup as a starter dish--it's far too body strengthening for that, but thinned out, or with lesser quantities of beans and bacon it could do. The flavours are deep and warming--the perfect thing when hunkered in, catching up on work or simply hiding out from the world with a good book.
Black Bean and Back Bacon Soup
Serves 6-8, depending upon appetite and cook's generosity.
300g dried black beans, soaked overnight
sliced celery rib
0.25-0.5 tsp ground cumin
0.25-0.5 tsp ground corander seed
0.25-0.5 tsp dried oregano
0.25-0.5 tsp cayenne pepper
0.25-0.5 tsp black pepper
1.5-2L vegetable stock
4 slices (200-ish g in total) uncooked back bacon, chopped
1 bay leaf
A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce
chopped coriander leaf or flat leaf parsley for garnish (optional)
In a fresh change of water, cook the beans. While that happens, sautée the onions and celery in the spice mix. When the onions have softened, add the garlic and stir until the garlic's sent is released. Remove the onion mixture from the pot.
In the same pot (or a different one, depending upon how many dishes you really feel like doing), add the stock and chopped bacon. Bring this up to a boil and then turn the flame down to a simmer. The bacon will begin to scum--that is a foam will float to the top. Skim the scum from the top. When the frothings have stopped, return the onions to the pot and add the bay leaf, and let simmer.
When the beans have softened add to the stock and let simmer for at least 30 minutes, but quite honestly, the longer the better. Add a few splashes of Worcesterchire. Taste and balance flavours to suit your palate. Garnish, if you will, with chopped coriander leaf or flat leaf parsley.
I'm a quill for hire!