Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Brown bean soup (with bacon)

We're coming to the end of our winter, here. When the warmer weather comes along, I will share all manner of recipes for salads and fridge tarts. But, for now, it's definitely the weather for soups, casseroles and stews.

The story behind this recipe is one of those culturally revealing moments. I was working for a small town council (the same one mentioned in yesterday's recipe) and we had an end-of-year staff-and-families braai (barbecue). I should point out that it is the norm in South Africa for each person/family to bring their own meat to a barbecue, and for the man of the family to cook it on the communal fire. Since I was single, this presented a problem. There was no way on earth that a woman could join the men at the fire. Our job was to sit inside and gossip... and keep the beers coming. So several men offered to cook my meat for me. This presented another problem. I was 23 and not unattractive. None of the wives wanted their husbands cooking for me - that was grounds for suspicion of an affair (I did say that it was a small town).

But I had to eat. Inevitably, somebody grilled my steak for me, and inevitably his wife got the sulks.

In a pathetic attempt to make peace, I offered to share my marinade recipe with her (which I will share with you, too, at some point). B I G mistake! She snapped at me that she had plenty of recipes of her own, thank you very much, and several of the hatchet-faced wives nearby assured me that she was a brilliant cook. So I asked her to share some of her recipes with me.

Oddly enough, she did. This was one of them.

1 pkt sugar beans (or kidney beans if you can't get sugar beans where you are), soaked for several hours or overnight
250g rindless bacon, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and grated
3 litres water
10ml salt
Lemon pepper to taste
Marrow bones (if you struggle to come by these, use a small bit of neck of lamb or something with a bone)
125ml 4-in-1 soup mix or a combination of red lentils, pearl barley and split peas
2 bay leaves

  • Saute the onions and bacon until just done.
  • Discard the water from the beans and add the beans to the saucepan.
  • Add water and all other ingredients and simmer for about 2 hours - stirring occasionally - until the beans are soft. If you're using a pressure cooker, 40 minutes at pressure should do the trick.
  • Serve with crusty bread.

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