Friday, March 17, 2017

Best Black Bean Soup

I am trying to build up a good repertoire of vegetarian dishes (well... aside from chicken stock, but that can also easily be replaced with veggie stock), especially if they only require one pot! A and I are trying to keep an eye on grocery bills and therefore batch cooking and the freezer has become pretty vital - and I feel much better about storing and reheating vegetarian food (plus it will hopefully keep us from ballooning in size as we adjust to more American food). Now that I'm in Texas for a bit, Mexican ingredients and dishes are incredibly easy to create, so I'm enjoying wandering the aisles of the local Mexican supermarket and trying to make sense of the plethora of unfamiliar foodstuffs. The chipotles in adobo smell absolutely amazing and while this recipe doesn't use much of the can, there were lots of tips on how to freeze appropriate amounts of it for use in other dishes, and I am contemplating using some in a fusion fried rice dish (I'll let you know how that goes...)
This tastes much creamier than the ingredient list might leave you to believe, so enjoy it while also feeling good about yourself!

Best Black Bean Soup
Adapted from NYTimes


1 small (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped (optional)
2 onions, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup red wine (optional)
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped (I substituted 1 large padron pepper)
1 pound dry black beans (I soaked overnight despite instructions not to)
48oz chicken stock
1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon kosher salt (I did not need this - felt the soup was savory enough)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Red wine vinegar, to taste (optional, I used 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar)


  1. Empty the can of chiles into a blender or food processor. Purée until smooth, scrape into a container, and set aside. 
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, add olive oil, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and padron pepper (or jalapeños) and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, 5 to 8 minutes. 
  3. Push the vegetables out to the edges of the pot and dollop 2 teaspoons of chipotle purée in the center. Let fry for a minute and then stir together with the vegetables.
  4. Add beans, stock, black pepper, oregano and bay leaves. Stir, bring to a boil, and let boil 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, partly covered, stirring occasionally and adding hot water as needed to keep the soup liquid and runny, not sludgy. Continue cooking until beans are softened, collapsing and fragrant, approximately 1 hour. 
  5. Adjust the texture of the soup: The goal is to combine whole beans, soft chunks and a velvety broth. Some beans release enough starch while cooking to produce a thick broth without puréeing. If soup seems thin, use an immersion blender or blender to purée a small amount of the beans until smooth, then stir back in. Continue until desired texture is reached, keeping in mind that the soup will continue to thicken as it sits.
  6. Heat the soup through, taste and adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper, drops of red wine vinegar and dabs of chipotle purée.
  7. Serve in deep bowls, garnishing each serving with sour cream, pickled onions, cilantro leaves, sliced chiles and avocado as desired.
Update: So an Instant Pot has arrived in my life. I did steps 1-3 on the Saute setting, then added the rest (including unsoaked, dried beans) and put it on pressure cook for 30 minutes, then let it naturally release. Blending a bit of the soup helped add some creaminess in, and it was ready to go. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Pasta con ceci (one pot!)

So I've made pasta con ceci before - in fact a link can be found here. The other version is vegetarian - and has happily fed over a dozen people in one go so certainly multiplies well - but when I saw another recipe and knew that I had all of the ingredients sitting around the kitchen, I had to give it a whirl. This one is definitely more savory, more adult, more complex - so I guess which one you use will depend on who you are feeding!

Pasta con ceci
Adapted from Dinner A Love Story


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling (original called for 4 tbs)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 anchovies, chopped
3 tablespoons good tomato paste
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup uncooked ditalini pasta (I have subbed 1 cup penne with good results, and I bet shells would work well too)
2 cups boiling water
1 large pinch red pepper flakes, plus additional for serving if desired


In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until it becomes lightly browned and fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste, red pepper flakes and salt and fry for 30 seconds or so. Add the chickpeas, pasta, and boiling water. Stir to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, lower the heat, and simmer until the pasta is cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. To serve, ladle the pasta into shallow bowls, sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes, and drizzle a bit of extra-virgin olive oil on top.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Lemon linguine with crab

I absolutely adore crab. Despite our strict budget on our recent California road trip, I managed to squeeze in a portion of fresh crab in Monterey Bay - and I'm not sure much beats eating pure crab meat in the sunshine with the tiniest squeeze of lemon. However, if you actually want to be full after a crab meal (without spending 3 hours cracking enough crabs to fill up on crab meat) - crab linguine is a decent solution. 
This is a rich treat of a meal - the clotted cream and crabmeat combine into a luxurious sauce, lightened up a tiny bit with lemon and tomatoes. The original recipe called for peeling the tomatoes, but I never have patience for that (and tomato skin doesn't bother me at all) so I would just skip that, especially for a cozy meal at home.
Sadly I doubt this will ever be in high rotation for us, but I will certainly return the next time I have a huge crab craving and don't feel like murdering a pile of crabs.

Lemon linguine with crab
Adapted from Gousto


40g Cornish clotted cream
200g linguine
1/2 tsp chili flakes
2 tomatoes
10g fresh chives
1 veggie stock cube
1 lemon
100g Cornish fifty fifty crabmeat
3 garlic cloves
2 tbsp shaoxing wine
1 tsp French Dijon mustard


1. Boil pasta for 8 minutes.

2. Dissolve half stock cube with 50 ml boiling water. Zest half the lemon. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Chop the chives finely. Chop tomatoes into quarters.

3. Add 2 tbsp olive oil to wide based pan over low head. Add garlic, chili flakes and lemon zest and cook for 1 minute until golden and aromatic.

4. Add shaoxing and cook for 1 minute. Add stock and cook for further 2 min.

5. Separate white crab meat from brown crab meat. Remove stock pan from heat and stir in brown crab meat, clotted cream, Dijon mustard, tomatoes and half the chives.

6. Add cooked linguine and juice of half the lemon.

7. Loosen sauce with pasta water if needed. Add white crab meat and remaining chives and toss. Enjoy!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Speedy minted lamb with feta and bulgur

I made this in November last year, from a Gousto box - it was such a comforting, perfect recipe for darker, colder evenings and came together incredibly quickly. It was immediately filed away in my head as a recipe to save so I could make it again, with some tweaks, such as adding more bulgur (original recipe called for 150g) and serving more of the mint on the side as A thought it was a bit too minty. He'd also love more feta but I thought it was nice for it to be a bit of a treat and not in every mouthful, so I've left it as is for now. Hopefully I'll remember this when weather gets colder again - so let's call it a hibernating recipe and revive in in the fall!

Speedy minted lamb with feta and bulgur
Adapted from Gousto


250g bulgur wheat
100g feta
10g fresh mint
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cucumber
200g lamb mince
1 red onion
1 tbsp ras el hanout


1. Finely slice red onion. Head large wide based pan with oil. Once hot, add onion and big pinch of salt and sugar. Cook for 4 min or until softened, stirring occasionally.

2. Add bulgur to pot of salted boiling water. Boil for 7-10 min or until cooked. Drain and return to pot to cool slightly.

3. Stir ras el hanout and tomato paste into onion pan, then add lamb mince and break up with wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 7-10 min or until caramelised, stirring minimally. Add 125ml boiling water to create a ragu-like sauce.

4. Cut cucumber in half, scrape out seeds and dice.

5. Strip mint leaves from stalks, and finely chop leaves.

6. Fluff cooked bulgur with a fork. Crumble in the feta and add cucumber and half the chopped mint. Season with pepper.

7. Serve lamb over bulgur and garnish with remaining mint.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

So... it's time for an update!

I have no idea if anyone is still out there, keeping track of my increasingly rare posts, but if you are, hello.

In case this helps to explain my absence - I've been wrapping up a wonderful life in London in order to head off on a bit of a new adventure with A - we've moved back to the US to explore, have a little break and see what new exciting jobs are out there for us. I hope to have news on the job front in a little bit, but in the meantime, I have been trying to appreciate how lucky we are to take a few months off and see new lands.

So expect to see way more about food in the US - February was spent travelling around California (with a short detour to Las Vegas) and while I don't plan to blog everything I ate, I'm sure a few things will make it on here. Cooking has fallen a bit by the wayside as we are currently homeless, but I am really looking forward to having our own place soon, complete with kitchen, and then I'm sure I'll be back posting recipes that I want to save for ever.

I find myself using this site mainly to find recipes I loved, or to recommend things to other people when they ask about restaurants, especially in far flung locations. So it will continue on in this vein, but while I'm thinking about it, the posts I go to most are:

Interestingly, none of these are my most popular posts with readers - but that's ok!