Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spicy Black Bean Soup

The supermarket here in Swaziland is one of those places where I never know which previously elusive ingredient will suddenly be staring me in the face when I walk in. Gluten-free pasta? Check. Dairy-free, gluten-free parmesan topping? Check. Soy milk? Check. Marshmallow fluff? (You know, the stuff you used to eat on peanut butter-fluff sandwiches?) Check. Taco seasoning and taco shells? Check. But despite the fact that I have access to such rarities as these, I have not seen black beans before here in Swaziland. Recently, thought, as I was passing by the dried bean and lentil shelf, I noticed a pile of small bags filled with them! This is the first recipe I’ve made with them so far, and I think it turned out pretty well. Mine ended up being fairly spicy, so be cautious with the number of chili peppers you add. I had jarred peppadews on hand and threw them in, but they are absolutely not necessary for this soup. If you don’t have peppers at all, you could just sprinkle in some cayenne pepper instead. The main flavor in this dish comes from the aromatic cumin, so if you’re going to be liberal with any ingredient, that’s the one.  Perfect to make a dreary, rainy, cold day better.

Spicy Black Bean Soup

1 cup dried black beans, pre-soaked or 1 can black beans, rinsed
1 – 2 tbsp. olive oil
1 – 4 chili peppers
6 – 8 peppadew peppers (optional)
4 – 6 tsp. minced garlic
1 medium onion, diced finely
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 – 2 tsp. cumin (or more to taste)
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1 bay leaf
Dash of cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-soak the dried black beans for 12 hours with a ratio of one cup of beans to four cups of water. Rinse, place in pot and cover with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook for about an hour. Drain the beans and set aside. Or, if you are using canned beans, rinse them and set aside.

In a non-stick skillet, heat the oil. Cut the stems off of the chilies and pierce the peppers several times with a knife. Place them in the skillet and cook over medium heat for about 4 Р5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to saut̩ for another 2 Р3 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium sized pot, fry the diced onion in a scant amount of oil. When the onion has become translucent, add the fried garlic and chilies to the pot. Next add the spices and stir well to mix.

Add the rinsed beans to the pot and stir into the spice mixture. Next, add the vegetable or chicken broth to cover the beans. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for at least one hour. The flavors will only intensify and develop more as you let it simmer, so the longer the better. I simmered mine for about 2 hours, adjusting the spices for my own taste. Towards the end of the cooking time, add salt and pepper to your own taste. Remove the chilies from the soup if desired, or leave them in for some extra heat.
Using a potato masher or an electric hand mixer, puree about half of the soup for a thicker consistency. Serve on its own or topped with freshly chopped tomatoes, chives, or Tofutti sour cream.

Alternatively, fry up some eggs and toast and top them with this soup!

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