Smoky Black Bean and Roast Tomato Soup Recipe

I've been craving dinner earlier than usual recently. My appetite gets discombobulated in the autumn, as the sky darkens at an ever-quickening pace, similar to the confusion jet lag inflicts. Alex has poked his head round the kitchen door a couple of times this week exclaiming, "Are you already making dinner?" If I was married to an 80 year old my timing would be spot on.

Not only is dusk nudging in but the temperature has turned officially chilly — I feel the need to insulate from within. Soup season has arrived.

The first new soup recipe I've tried this fall is from the recently published cookbook Vegetarian by Alice Hart. Illustrated with stunning photos by Lisa Linder, the book contains 141 recipes that sound refreshingly like they've been created by someone who loves food and just happens to cook without meat.

International influences are sprinkled throughout the pages: there's a Malaysian egg curry, a French variation on pizza, Vietnamese pancakes, and a salad of North African flavours. Hart's creations sit alongside a few recipes contributed from some well-known chefs including Skye Gyngell (head chef of Petersham Nurseries Cafe) and Rowley Leigh (chef proprietor of Le Café Anglais). All combined it creates the kind of book you flip through and immediately think 'I want, to make, it all'.

I was moved to try this soup recipe first as anything described as 'smoky' immediately grabs my attention (I LOVE smoky flavours) and it calls for produce that is plentiful this month in the UK — corn and tomatoes. Corn sliced fresh off the cob makes all the difference here, the kernels burst with juicy flavour and provide a nice textural contrast to the blended soup.

Hart's recipe assumes you know how to roast tomatoes, and (if you're starting with dry) how to cook the beans. The time needed for these steps is not included in the cooking time listed at the top of the page, which could screw up your plans if you didn't read through the ingredients list first.

The all-star ingredient in this soup is chipotle pepper. Oh how I love chipotle — it's an essential tool in a smoky food lovers kit. It brings a smoky depth to anything it touches and a gentle kick of heat. I'm addicted to Cool Chile Co.'s Chipotle paste, it's pretty hot at first, but you'll soon be dolloping it on everything. Amazing. You can also buy dried chipotle peppers on their website, which can be used in this soup after a tiny amount of preparation.

Like most soup, this one will taste better the day after you make it, so cook ahead if possible.

Smoky Black Bean and Roast Tomato Soup
Adapted from: Vegetarian by Alice Hart

Serves 4

For the salsa:
100g fresh corn kernels (about one large cob)
1 small red onion, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 red chili, finely chopped (seeds left in if you like heat)
1/2 lime
Handful of coriander leaves

For the soup:
6 medium tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
700g cooked black beans* — I used tinned organic beans
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
2 red onions
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons chipotle pepper paste**
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
800ml vegetable stock
1/2 lime
sour cream, to serve
4 warm flour tortillas or bag of tortilla chips, to serve

*If using dried beans soak them overnight and then follow their cooking instructions the next day. Drain and set cooked beans aside until needed.
**If using a dried chipotle pepper: remove the stem and seeds; soak in just-boiled water for about 15 minutes until soft, then purée into a paste.

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Slice the tomatoes in half and place cut side up on the tray. Grind some black pepper and sea salt over the tomatoes and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Pop the tray in the oven and set the timer to check on it in an hour.

Next prepare the salsa. Shuck the corn and then hold it vertically on end in a big bowl, take a very sharp knife and slice the kernels off the cob into the bowl. Warm the oil in a frying pan and cook the onion for about 5 minutes over low heat until soft and just starting to colour. Now turn up the heat and toss in the corn and chili, stirring regularly until the corn starts to look toasted. Remove the pan from the stove, season with freshly ground salt and pepper then squeeze over the lime.

Check on the tomatoes, they are ready when they the tops look slightly dried and charred. When they've reached that point take them out and set the tray aside.

Time for the soup — warm the oil in a large pot. Cook the onions slowly over a low heat until soft but not coloured. Add the chipotle paste, oregano and cumin seeds. Cook for 5 more minutes until the cumin is fragrant. 

Pile in the drained beans and roast tomato halves then pour over the stock. Bring the pot to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper then squeeze in the lime juice. Allow to cool slightly then either liquidise in a blender or use a stick blender in the pot. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Stir the coriander leaves into the corn salsa. Warm bowls in the oven, ladle in the soup, and top with a swirl of sour cream and spoonfuls of salsa. Serve with warm flour tortillas or a big bowl of salted tortilla chips to share.

Love your Leftovers: Freeze any leftover soup. Put any remaining salsa in an air-tight container and toss it into salads, melt into a cheese quesadilla, or stir through rice the next day.

Thanks to Murdoch Books UK for the review copy and book cover image.

1 comment:

  1. This is probably the best soup in the world. It's a very nice book too


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