Spicy black bean soup

This warming soup freezes well and can be made with water instead of ham stock.  Photo to follow!

Black turtle beans need to be soaked overnight and take time to cook, so is worth making in a large batch. I wrote this recipe to use up the ham stock from cooking the Honey-baked ham in First take your ham.

If you use ham stock, you don’t need to season your soup.  The stock is sufficiently salty. 

If you use water, season after you’ve pureed the soup.  Salt can toughen the skin of the dried beans. 

Incidentally, those who have soft water may find that their beans cook more quickly as hard water can also toughen the outer skin of dried beans.

Serves 8-12

500g dried black turtle beans

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 onions, roughly diced

2 garlic cloves, roughly diced

4 outer celery sticks, roughly diced

2 Thai chillies (or to taste), roughly sliced

1 small bunch coriander, washed

2 teaspoons ground cumin

about 3.7 litres ham stock, or water

Optional: sour cream and fresh coriander leaves to serve


1  The night before you intend to make the soup, place the dried beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water.  Agitate the beans with your hand to wash them.  Pour off the water.  Cover with plenty of fresh cold water and leave to soak overnight.


2  The next day, tip the beans into a colander and rinse with cold water.  Set a large pan over a medium heat.  Once hot, add the olive oil, followed by the diced onions, garlic, celery and chilli.  As soon as the vegetables start to sizzle, reduce the heat slightly and fry gently for 10 minutes or until soft. 


3  Roughly slice the coriander, stems and all, and stir into the vegetables.  Continue to fry for a minute or two, then add the cumin and fry for a further minute.  Add the drained beans and about 3 litres ham stock or water.  The quantity will depend on the size of your pan.  Bring the mixture up to the boil and boil vigorously for 10 minutes.


4  After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to a gentle boil, partially cover and cook for about 2 hours.  At some stage you will need to add more liquid, so add the remaining 700ml stock or enough water to continue boiling your beans in plenty of liquid, until they are meltingly soft.  This will take a further15 and 45 minutes, depending on the age of the beans.  Old beans take longer to cook.  Remove from the heat and liquidise.


5  The soup will be very thick at this stage and makes 8 portions.  Divide between freezer containers and once cool, cover and freeze.


6  To serve: gently reheat the soup.  It will become slightly more liquid as it heats, so thin to taste at this stage with water.  Serve once piping hot. 


Serving note:  If this is for a dinner party, add a swirl of sour cream into each bowl and scatter with a few fresh coriander leaves.

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