Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Bacon and bean soup

Since I promised to do a soup that doesn't require a blender, I thought I'd better get right on it. We had this for supper last night.

First a note about bacon. If you're a bacon lover, it adds a delicious something extra to a wide range of soups. And you don't always need a lot of it, either - nor do you need the expensive, aesthetically pleasing rashers. Bear in mind, though, that bacon contains a lot of salt. So if you do add some to an existing recipe on a whim, adjust the salt levels accordingly. This recipe uses no salt at all, apart from what is already in the bacon.

I'm afraid the quantities in this recipe (as with most soups) are pretty inexact. I tend to use whatever I have in the house. I recommend you do the same.

1 pack of bacon, chopped if you like
1 onion, finely chopped
2 or 3 large carrots peeled and chopped or sliced (or hacked up willy-nilly)
250ml dried beans of your choice (see note about beans below)
250ml pearl barley
250ml green or brown lentils
125ml red lentils
2 bay leaves
1l chicken or vegetable stock

Rinse the beans and then place them in a large bowl full of water for several hours or overnight (or see note below). Pour off the water.

Then, hoick all the ingredients into a pressure cooker or saucepan. Make sure you add enough water, though, because the pulses will absorb a lot as they cook, and beans have a nasty tendency to stick to the bottom of the pot. This is particularly important if you're using an ordinary saucepan, because evaporation is a much bigger factor. Boil until all the pulses are soft. In my pressure cooker, this usually takes about 30 minutes at pressure.

If you're a more considerate cook than I am, you will remove the bay leaves before serving the soup. If not, you will simply serve it with a warning to 'watch out for extraneous plant matter' (I think my kids new the meaning of the word 'extraneous' before they went to nursery school).

You can serve with bread if you like, but I find this soup so filling, that I usually don't bother.

About those beans
I tend to use kidney beans, because it's what I grew up with, and because I like the colour. But, as you can see from today's picture, I might decide to try something different... or a combination of several different somethings. If you're in a hurry, you can use canned beans, but don't tell the purists I said so, okay? Opt for the 'no salt added' types. Oh, and not baked beans - just beans in water. If you're going this route, I would suggest at least two cans. Remember the '1 cup' of dried beans will turn into several cups of soaked beans, so you have to compensate.

This can be frozen. In fact, the soup we ate last night was prepared some weeks ago and then frozen. But you can only do that once. Once you have defrosted and reheated the soup, don't be tempted to re-freeze any left overs. If you have a large quantity to freeze, try splitting it up into smaller portions that you are more likely to use up on reheating.

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