Black bean soup is a classic for a reason. It’s comforting, hearty and one of the most versatile soups you will ever come across. You can add your favourite vegetables and herbs and spices to complement and liven up the earthy nature of this soup. This version uses bacon and ham hock to develop a really solid base and is served with pumpkin (winter squash) and goat’s cheese crema for sweetness and balance.
- 100 ml (3½ fl oz) olive oil
- 200 g (7 oz) smoked bacon, diced
- 4 celery stalks, sliced
- 1 red onion, finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 red bullhorn chilli, diced (see Note)
- 1½ tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
- 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) smoked ham hock
- 3 litres (101 fl oz/12 cups) chicken stock
- 220 g (8 oz/1 cup) dried black beans, soaked in cold water overnight
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 200 g (7 oz) blue corn (tortilla) chips to serve
- 100 ml (3½ fl oz) olive oil
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) butternut pumpkin (squash), cut into bite-sized pieces
- 55 g (2 oz/¼ cup) sugar
- 2 jalapeños, sliced
- 1 large handful of oregano leaves, roughly chopped
- 400 g (14 oz) soft goat’s cheese
- 250 g (9 oz/1 cup) sour cream
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 garlic clove
- juice of 2 limes, or to taste
- sea salt to taste
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Soaking time overnight
Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat.
Cook the bacon, vegetables, garlic and spices for 5 minutes, or until softened and fragrant. Add the ham hock and chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and gently simmer for 30 minutes. Add the pre-soaked beans, cover and gently simmer for a further 45–60 minutes, until tender.
Meanwhile, to prepare the pumpkin, heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry the pumpkin for 10 minutes, or until it begins to caramelise. Add the sugar and continue to cook, until well coloured. Add the jalapeños and oregano and cook for a further minute. Set aside.
To prepare the goat’s crema, combine the goat’s cheese, sour cream, coriander and garlic in a food processor and blend to combine. Season with the lime juice and salt.
Once the beans are tender, remove the ham hock and approximately 300 g (10½ oz) of the beans and set aside – you need enough beans to garnish the soup.
Blend the soup using a hand-held blender, until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Return to the pan and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Shred the meat off the ham hock. Add the ham and the reserved beans to the soup and stir to combine.
To serve, place a spoonful of the warm cooked pumpkin, along with the jalapeños and oregano leaves, in a neat pile in the centre of the soup bowls or plates. Pour in the soup and top with a generous spoonful of goat’s crema. Serve with the corn chips, crushed if desired.
• Also known as chile de agua, the bullhorn chilli is a long, narrow green chilli with a fairly mild and sweet flavour. It is often used in salsas. It is sold fresh, dried or tinned at Mexican grocery stores and some supermarkets.
Recipe and image from Cantina by Paul Wilson (Hardie Grant Books, $49.95, hbk, available here)