Unpatriotic bean soup

Bean soups are the true staple of the spanish kitchen. Don´t be fooled by books on tapas or Ferran Adria´s bubblebath creations. When push comes to shove, it´s beans you´ll be given. If you´re not given garbanzos or lentils, that is.

I used to hate the bean soup at school, a pale, lumpy gloop with small slices of orange chorizo floating wanly around, so for years I never ate it, never mind cooking it. But by and by the memory of the horrible versions began to fade, and I had occasion to try some very good bean soups, fabadas and such.

However, reading the literature, it was clear to me from the beginning that making your own pot of fabada makes no sense. What with locating the fabes, soaking them, simmering them while standing anxioiusly over the pot, ready to break the boil with cold water every now and then, it adds up to many hours. You might as well drive to Asturias and back. At least the scenery´s pretty.

I tried the dried bean thing a couple of times, but you know what? I´ve decided it´s environmentally unsound to waste so much fuel. Beans for twenty, yes, but for two? Five hours of fire? No way. Plus, it´s a complete pain in the neck.

Enter the jar of beans. The so excellent jar of beans. I don´t know how the case may be elsewhere, but here we have beans of great quality, lots of choice, and a great price. A lowly jar will cost almost nothing, and a gourmet version, organic, preservative free, not much more.

A basic 500 gr. jar makes a beautiful pot of soup for two in less than half an hour, and is a good way of getting rid of any floating population of vegetables you may have around. There are many ways to go with this, but I usually veer towards the Italian in my bean soups. Doubtless to stray as far as possible from the kind I ate (or didn´t) at school.

Deeply unpatriotic bean soup

Start off with a sofrito. Actually, let´s not even pretend, and call it sofritto. Put a chopped onion in olive oil, and when it´s softened, add garlic, carrot and celery, chopped as fine as you like (panceta or bacon are very good here, and there´s nothing to stop you from frying some good chorizo at the beginning, and letting the whole thing take on a golden tint. You´d better add some pepper, then, green for true Spanishness). Sweat it for then minutes or so, and then add grated tomato, if fresh, or squashed tomatoes from a tin. A couple will do.

Leave that for five more minutes, and then add a jar of beans, white, brown or black. Today I used pochas, from La Rioja. If they´re good beans, the liquid in the jar will be the water they were boiled in, and taste very good. If it doesn´t then just drain, and add a little stock to the pot, about a cup, and a bay leaf.

I used to add a stock cube, but I´ve lately learnt a rather shocking trick, here. A splash of barbecue sauce. I know, it sounds gross, but I promise, it gives an undetectable but really really good kick, smoky and sweet.

Leave to simmer for ten minutes, and then see how you go about the texture. With so little liquid, it´s quite thick, what we call a potaje, but you may want to add more water and make it soupy.

Add quite a lot of fresh chopped parsley, serve in deep bowls, drizzle with chili oil, and dust with grated parmesan (there I go again).

10 comentarios:

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) dijo...

I've been thinking about garbanzo beans all day (watch for a post on my blog later this week) -- something about winter, and comfort food. Bean soups are a favorite.

Anónimo dijo...

I grew up bean-less... and I don't know if this was a good thing or bad thing, but I was actually jealous of other school friends who got to have beans at home. So I guess you shouldn't feel too bad about growing up with so much beans.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) dijo...

By the way, thanks for spreading the gospel of barbecue sauce in soup! It was a revelation to me when I first tried it, desperate to find something that would add smoke and density to soup without using salt pork or ham bones. It does sound awful, but it really works!

MyKitchenInHalfCups dijo...

Yes, I do love the convience of canned beans and the variety. The BBQ sauce thing is inspired, adding not just the smoke but the sweet and the tomato thickness. I also have a little bottle of liquid smoke that I sometimes use a drop or two of in things like guacamole or a salsa. Have to be careful tho it is really strong.

Anónimo dijo...

Ugh, beans... I grew up in Canada (a bean-free country! ;) ) and after that moved to Spain and I simply couldn't understand the sudden beans, garbanzos, etc, with chunks of meat (I was 10 then). I simply didn't get it. I still kinda don't, specially the meat part. I can deal with garbanzos and lentejas, maybe black beans in chili but... fabada has always and always will be on the top of my ew list. Thank God that my husband thinks the same about the fabada, but loves the rest with the chunks of meat so I get all the flavour without having to throw half of it away hahaha.

I very much like your blog Ximena, and your drawings so much more!


xps dijo...

Que fresquísima!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pero qué rico suena.

lobstersquad dijo...

lydia: thank you, the bbq thing is the best
jenjen: if you´d´seen the beans at my school, you wouldn´t have been jealous
mkihc: will look out for that, it sounds a bit hard to find
neko: thanks for visiting! I´ve taken years and years to come round to fabada, but now I like it, sometimes.
xps: ya te digo.

Anónimo dijo...

Reading your post and the comments I am going to try barbecue sauce in a dried split pea soup this week (sounds gross but it's very good when it's cold outside).

Thanks for the tip.


Anónimo dijo...

Well, I am sorry, Madam, but absolutely, as the spanish guy I am, I do not agree.

You are into mediterranean beans soup for 5? or 8? years. We are eating this potajes since we were born.

So, for us, spanish, a Big Mac is exactly the same thing of a Whopper and exactly the same of a homemade burger, because it is not our war.

That is the reason why for you there is no difference between a dish of beans grandmother style and a jar.

Spanish cooked conserves are in a high standard of quality, as you know, and you can obtain a very good jar of beans dirty cheap, less than 0.40€. Most populars are very correct.
Even precooked bean dishes are good and a good quick solution for a meal with a fresh salad.

If you want to make easily at home your own beans dishes, put the beans covered of clean water for at least 12 hours. After that, wash them. Quality of beans is important, but quality is not related with price in this case. Fabes from Asturias are expensive (12 €/Kg) and are pretty good, but you can obtain good beans as low as 3€/Kg. Please, notice most part af commercial beans in Spain are not spanish but mexicans. The price is good, but spanish beans are very much better. You must go buying them into a small shop, not in a supermarket.

Put in a saucepan 4 or 6 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 sliced glove garlic and chopped onion. The volume of the onion must be more or less the same of the beans.

I hate leaves, so utilise it if you are into.

Stir at medium fire. When done, add chorizo, morcilla (blood aucisse) and bacon (not smoked).

Stir for 2 minutes. Put the beans. Stir well. Cover with stock and add salt.

You do not need to cut the boiling if your beans have been in water for 12 hours.

You can utilise a pressure saucerpan. No problem. You need about 45 minutes to go. Or 2 hours in a regular saucepan.

When finished, deep fry some sliced garlics an add to the saucerpan. It is very normal to add 2 or 3 vineggar tablespoons (Jerez or Modena are OK)

A good idea is cooking the beans the day before. Thís is a meal better if a bit old.

In some supermarkets (Hipercor) you can buy freezed fresh pochas. It is an interesting way of eating beans.

Thank you for your blog. It is amazing to see american people interested in more than jamon ibérico ;-)

I have made a commentar in your august entry about paella and fideuá, please, read it. I used to work as a cooker in a restaurant specialized in paella when I was young.

I apologize for my unpractized for years English. I hope you will understand me.

lobstersquad dijo...

Hola Javier
gracias por el comentario, muy interesante, y el del otro día también. No siempre contesto, y casi nunca en posts antiguos, no te lo tomes mal.
Y soy de Madrid, nada de americana. Lo del inglés es porque me divierte que lo lea gente por todo el mundo.