Black bean soup will never win prizes in food photography. The colour isn’t an easy sell, as I know from my partner’s face which falls when the bowl makes its way to the table. Our joint investment in the world’s future, Little One, knows better and greedily slurps the soup up the minute it’s there. Partner’s bowl empties easily once the first bite hits the mouth. Because even if it’s ugly, black bean soup is silky, satisfying fall and winter comfort food. Every year I make a big batch and never comes out the same way twice. This year’s is an herbaceous blend, first steeping the beans in a strong tea of oregano and garlic to season them inside-out and not just skin deep. While the amount of spice here may seem daunting, keep in mind that the soup is pressure-cooked and a lot of strength in the spice is lost as a result. Furthermore, this makes a lot of soup – so you need a fair bit if herb to get that much soup happening! Finally, I made the soup with water since I had no stock kicking around the day of the making, but if you do have unsalted vegetable broth hanging about, by all means use it and add another layer of flavor to your finished product.
Yield: 3 litres of soup, 6 to 8 servings
What you need:
- 2 cups dry black beans
- 1 or 2 tablespoons of dried oregano
- 1 or 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
- 2 cups finely diced onion
- 1-1/2 cups finely diced carrots
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (not the stalk, only the needles)
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 teaspoon marjoram
- 8 cups of water
- 3 scant teaspoons of salt
What you do:
- Place the 1 or 2 tablepoons of oregano and the garlic powder in a large bowl and cover with a cup or two of boiling water. Cover the bowl and let steep for 10 minutes at least. Add 3 or 4 cups of cool water to dilute the tea (you can leave the herbs in). Add the beans to the herb-flavoured water and let soak 8 to 12 hours.
- Drain the liquid off the beans. Most of the herbs will be washed off too, if some remain, no stress, leave them there. Set aside.
- If you have an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, this is the time to get it out. It makes the soup quickly and fuss-free. Just put in the onion, carrot, soaked beans, water, oregano, rosemary, celery seed and marjoram. Fit the cover and bring to pressure (bean cycle if you have an Instant Pot), cook for 20 minutes, and then allow the pressure to release naturally.
- If you don’t have an instant pot, then put the onion, carrot, soaked beans, water, oregano, rosemary, celery seed and marjoram into a large soup pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer gently for 90 minutes to 2 hours, more if the beans are old, until the beans are very soft and creamy. If necessary, add a bit more water.
- Take off the cover, add the salt, and use an immersion blender to purée part or all of the soup, as desired. Let sit 10 minutes or so to cool a bit.
- Serve with some home-made corn crackers or crusty french bread slathered in sunflower seed pâté.
- For a thicker soup, reduce the water by 2 cups and the salt by 1/2 a teaspoon.
- Feel free to add some finely diced celery to the soup too, it works amazing, I just didn’t have any on hand…
- For a richer soup, the vegetables can be sautéed in olive or coconut oil until soft and tender prior to adding the beans, water and spice.
- Or another way to have a richer soup is to stir in some coconut milk after cooking.
- And if desired, a twist of lemon never hurt either.