During our kitchen clear out, I found some extra packages of dried beans, including some black beans. A coworker had been reminiscing recently about the black bean soup she had in Cuba, and that reminded me of the black bean soup I used to have at Tex-Mex restaurants back home. I cobbled together a few recipes to come up with the below - the bacon is an addition due to my belief that very little makes beans taste as good as a bit of smoked pork. Cumin gives it some warmth, oregano is thrown in because it was in one recipe and I am trying to use up some dried herbs, and I added a few drops of Tabasco to give it a little kick. The picture is quite drab looking, but the flavors are anything but. I topped servings with a little grated cheddar and cilantro/coriander - sour cream would also work for those of you who like that kind of thing.
Black Bean Soup
Serves 8 generously
500g black beans, soaked
8 cups water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
8 rashers smoked streaky bacon
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup green pepper, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons cumin (or to taste)
4 teaspoons white vinegar (I used rice vinegar as it was all I had on hand)
1 tsp dried oregano
8 dashes of Tabasco (optional)
grated Cheddar cheese (optional)
chopped cilantro/corinder (optional)
In a large pot, add the water and salt. Add beans and simmer until soft (approximately 90 minutes). Cut bacon strips into lardons and fry until crispy. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and place into pot of beans. Sauté onion, pepper, celery and carrots in remaining bacon fat until the onions turn golden brown. Add garlic, cumin, oregano and vinegar. Cook, stirring for 3 minutes. Drain about 1/2 cup water from beans and add it to the sauté.
Cook over low heat for 30 minutes.
Combine vegetables with beans.
Cook for another 30 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Add Tabasco if using. If you like a smoother soup, you can use a stick blender to blend some of the soup - I did this for a few pulses so that it remained quite chunky but thickened a bit. Also, if you want it to be vegetarian, just omit the bacon and saute the vegetables in olive oil instead.