Sunday, 9 November 2008

Soup from the Black Lagoon

Months ago I bought a packet of what is labelled ‘black kidney beans’. I have always assumed they are black beans and so I have been waiting for the opportunity to use them. By which I mean a day I get myself organized enough to soak them the night before. It didn’t happen overnight but it finally happened on a weekend when I had time and energy.

Given how infrequently I soak and cook legumes, particularly of the black variety, you could understand that E was fascinated by this dark murky bowl of beans in water. Every time he saw it he said, “it’s eating everything in its path” in the sort of voice he might hear on one of his B-grade horror movies, and making jokes about the creature from the black lagoon.

The recipe that had provided ample temptation for soaking black beans was Michael’s Black Bean Soup with Avocado from Where’s the Beef? As dark and murky as the soaking beans, but far tastier. Black bean soup appears in the blogosphere quite regularly but I was attracted to this version by the addition of avocado which gave a pleasingly creamy contrast to the smoky spicy soup.

We found that a little avocado went a long way but I didn’t feel the need for yoghurt or cheese which I might usually add to such a soup. I was also amused by the thought that the fluoro green avocado did look a little like creatures emerging from the black lagoon. Well that's my excuse for the camera refusing to focus properly!

I changed the spices slightly and after seeing Jen’s recipe for Espresso Black Bean Soup I decided to add molasses for added depth of flavour and darkness rather than sugar. We ate it with a good dense sourdough bread but it would also go very well with cornbread, especially if you have cute cactus pans like Susan at Fat Free Vegan.

It tasted superb! This is a hearty nutritious vegan meal and so I am sending it to Suganya of Tasty Palettes for her Vegan Ventures II event which she is holding this November to celebrate National Vegan Month.

Black Bean and Avocado soup
(adapted from Ken Charney, via Where’s the Beef?)
Serves 5-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp cumin powder
1 chipotle chilli (in adobo sauce), finely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks (I used ½ tsp ground cinnamon)
1 tbsp molasses
½ cup chopped coriander (cilantro)
5 chopped tomatoes
4 cups cooked black bean (simmered 60-90 min)
500ml cooking liquid from beans (or hot water)
500ml hot water
2 tsp vegie stock powder
1-2 ripe but firm avocadoes, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Extra coriander to serve (optional)
Salt to taste

In a large pot, heat the oil and fry the onion for about 5 minutes or until it's soft. Add garlic, cumin, chipotle chilli, cinnamon sticks, molasses and coriander and cook another minute or two, stirring frequently. (or as I did, you can fry onions and then the spices in a smaller pot while the black beans are still simmering, and then add onion mixture to large pot of beans.)

Add beans and tomatoes and stir to combine. Cook a few minutes and then pour in the liquids and stock powder (or stock if you prefer). Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 20-30 minutes.

Using a hand held blender, partly puree the soup. How much you puree it is up to your personal preference but I can advise that it is great with a bit of texture rather than completely smooth! (Or if you don’t have a hand held blender you could either use a potato masher or tip some of the soup into a food processor or blender.) Check seasoning.

Toss the chopped avocados in the lime juice. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with the avocados spooned on top of the soup. Sprinkle with chopped fresh coriander if desired

On the stereo:
Covers … Death in June - Down in June


  1. It's difficult getting round to soaking dried legumes, isn't it? We hardly ever do it.

    I couldn't agree more about the black lagoon look of this soup - as I looked at your picture I couldn't help thinking that it'd be a good recipe for Halloween. :-)

  2. Thanks Cindy - yes I am terrible at getting organised but have some black beans in the freezer after the big soak that I am looking forward to using. I also thought the soup would have been perfect halloween fare!

  3. I've been collecting black bean soup recipes too, so it's good to get a real thumbs up for one of them. I love the description as well - I hope that the 'monsters' tasted as good the lagoon! Good idea to freeze some extra beans too - I never remember to do that.

  4. I don't know why soaking beans seems hard and requiring great organization but it does. Then I feel so virtuous when I manage it and then so organized knowing I have some ready in the freezer.

    Love the avocado in this!

  5. I just love the addition of avocado there, and the molasses! I really can't wait to try this one. And the weather is perfect for a nice, hot soup these days. :)

  6. i love black bean soup. i also have only ever bothered making it once due to the soaking but i ate it the whole time i was in brazil and loved it

  7. It sounds gorgeous and looks lovely and rich! I haven't tried avocado in soup before, but I can see how it would work well. Thank you for the recipe :)

  8. Thanks Lysy - will look forward to seeing your take on black bean soup sometime (hopefully). I recklessly just soaked and simmered the whole packet of beans because it seemed easier than waiting months and months to do it again

    thanks tanna - soaking beans makes me feel v virtuous too - but shame it happens so infrequently

    thanks Ricki - definitely a good one for wintery evenings with a little colour and light from the avocado to cheer you up!

    Thanks Ran - v interesting that black bean soup is popular in brazil - I associate it with the South of USA

    Thanks Holler - yes rich in a v pleasing way - I would be interested in trying avocado in other soups after this!

  9. Great combination of flavours here. This post reminds me that I haven't eaten black beans for a while. I must try this. Just perfect for cold Canadian temperatures.

  10. mmmh! that sounds delicious! i love black beans... the problem i have is that the ones they sell around here are always way too old and therefore need lots of soaking and cooking! unfortunately, they're not required to put a harvest date on the labe, which would indicate how easily they will soften.
    but i guess if they started writing everything on the label, every food item would come with an added A4 sheet with descriptions ;-)

  11. Black Bean Soup is one of those meals that has a high taste-to-attractiveness ratio. How something that looks so...icky, I suppose...can taste so good, I will never know. And yet, it does!

  12. I love your description of the soup and youve been tagged

  13. thanks Lisa - I am sure this will go down well in a canadian winter

    thanks Johanna - I feel the same way about trying to find beans to soak - I have found some really tough ones in packages in the supermarket and now stick to whole foods stores and markets for soaking beans!

    thanks Erik - it does seem weird that what looks like a bowl of mud can taste so good - the mysteries of cooking!

    Thanks Flower - will check out your tag


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