“I’ll serve something black. Bean soup, licorice, coffee. It’ll be very grim, I promise. We’ll cover the mirrors. We’ll listen to Piaf. We’ll read passages from Dostoyevsky.”
~ Stephanie Kallos
Whether it’s the Brazilian feijoada – an amalgamation of beef and pork in a bean stew, or the Mexican frijoles negros – seasoned with the piquancy of epazote and the richness of creme fraiche, or a Nigella-Lawson-style Cuban cure – replete with chorizo and zingy spices, the Black Bean Soup can moonlight as a comfort slop in the confines of your sweet home, while it holds a lofty dayjob outside, jazzing up tables at an exquisite bistro high up in the Acapulco Bays, alongside an epicure’s choicest duck foie gras.
Which is why, when the powers that be roll out meddling recommendations that we chomp our way through the undertones of the gastronomic rainbow, the VIBGYOR ambassadors, right from berries to apples, take a bow when they witness black beans sweeping by. Their pot of gold magically appears when the black beans paint a nutritionist-approved seal at their far end.
Without further ado, we now present a suitably Tadka-fied, Kicked-up Black-Bean Soup, and whether or not you’re Stephanie Kallos, you can tune in to a Piaf ballad as you stir up a potful of this hearty soup, sipping on our Black Masala Tea.
Kicked-up Black-Bean Soup
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Onion, chopped, about 1 cup
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 2 Cloves garlic, minced
- ½ Teaspoon black pepper
- 1 Teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ Teaspoon cayenne pepper/red chilli powder
- 1 Teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (Kasoori methi), crushed
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1½ cups cooked black beans (reserve the cooking liquid), or 1 can, drained and rinsed
3 cups water, broth or bean cooking liquid
1 Small tomato, chopped
½ Cup corn kernels, defrosted if frozen
½ Cup chopped cilantro/coriander leaves
1 Tablespoon lime juice
Heat the oil in a large soup pot, add the onions, carrot and garlic, and allow them to soften over medium/low heat for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the salt and spices and let them toast while stirring briskly. Mix in the tomato paste. Puree 1 cup of beans with 1 cup of the liquid in a blender, and add this to the pot. Stir in the remaining ½ cup of whole black beans, 2 cups of liquid and the tomato. Let it all come to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the corn and let the soup cook for a few more minutes. Finally, take the pot off the heat and stir in the cilantro and lime juice.
Make your wholesome soup fun to eat with some crunchy tidbits that provide an enlivening contrast of textures. Store-bought ‘paapdis’ (usually earmarked for ‘chaat’) can serve as delightful dippers or scoopers. In a pinch, you could make your own by cutting up flour tortillas into squares, and deep-frying them to a brown crispness. You could also use colorful garnishes like wedges of juicy lemons, finely chopped tomatoes, green onions or even avocados for a grand, Tadka-style finish.