Black Bean and Wheatberry Soup

Black bean soup isn’t the most photogenic of foods.  Put that aside and it is one of the most comforting autumn meals I can think of.  The close of every planting season is made complete with a recipe (or three…) of hearty, wholesome black beans, vegetables and whole grains.  This can easily be a meal in itself when served with a garnish of avocado, perhaps a twist of lemon or lime, and a few crackers or some toast.  The addition of wheatberries adds texture, tooth and completes the protein from the legumes, making the finished product a nutritional powerhouse.  While I leave everything whole, a cup or two of the broth and beans can also be puréed in a food processor or blender and returned to the pot to yield a thicker and creamier dish.

Yield: A whopping 16 cups, so feel free to half the recipe if you aren’t freezing for the future

What you need:

  • 2-1/2 cups dry black beans
  • 1 cup wheatberries (or emmer wheat, or einkorn, or whole barley, or whole rye)
  • 1/8 teaspoon hing (asafoetida)
  • 1 large or 4 small sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 7 bay leaves
  • 10 cups unsalted vegetable broth (or water, but broth is way better)
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 3 large or 4 medium cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped onion, about 3 small
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 1 cup diced or sliced carrot
  • 1 green chile or jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (optional)
  • 3 teaspoons salt (less if your broth is salted)

What you do:

  1. Combine the dry black beans and wheatberries in large bowl and cover with water by 3” or 4”.  Let soak at least 12 hours, preferably 24, changing the water once or twice during the soaking period.  This will sprout the wheat, making it easier on the digestive tract, and also go a long way toward de-gassing one of the gassiest beans out there.
  2. Drain the beans and place in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot (yes, you absolutely need a pressure cooker here.  Stovetop cooking just won’t soften the beans enough and you’ll be cooking all day…  If you are super-freaked by pressure cooker then the alternative is to slow cook the beans until very soft, probably overnight, and proceed with the rest of the recipe).  Add the vegetable broth, hing, bay leaves and thyme.  Bring to pressure (15 lbs) or run the ”bean” cycle and cook for 30 minutes allowing a natural pressure release once the cooking cycle is complete.
  3. When the beans are almost done cooking, heat the oil in a 3 quart pot over medium flame.  Sauté the garlic, onion, scallions, celery, carrot and hot pepper until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.  If necessary, turn down the heat to prevent browning.
  4. Once the pressure has come down, open the cover of the beans and add the sautéed vegetables, parsley, coriander, mint and salt to the pot.  Simmer or slow cook the soup for another 40 minutes or more to develop the flavours.
  5. Serve.

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