|Meaty Pea and Bean Soup|
I’ve not been cooking for a while now. Well, here and there, I guess, but nothing serious. Nothing new. It has been a very busy two months, and my first month in 2014 has whooshed past. And I have been driven crazy by the rush. I haven’t eaten at home in many days, and truthfully speaking, nor did I want to.
But then I found some excellent lean meat, and decided to make some soup with it. I am under the weather slightly and a bowl of hearty soup with a few slices of crusty bread (you can see the number of slices I ate tonight — of course I was THAT hungry!).
I have always been a fan of this beautiful Tuscan Bean Soup by Emeril Lagasse. Every time I make it, modifying it according to availability and taste buds, it makes me feel more aware of the simple flavors and the beauty of cooking fresh ingredients together. I based this soup VERY LOOSELY on that recipe, but apart from a few things, the two have very little similarity in truth.
Begin with the beans. I generally use a pressure cooker to do this part, and actually most of the cooking, come to think about it. Take 150 gm. small red beans or kidney beans and wash them well. You can soak them before cooking them, or you can directly pressure cook them in 1.2 liters of water, a big pinch of salt, 1 inch piece ginger and a 1″ stick of cinnamon till they are soft, about 25 minutes over simmering heat after the first whistle is heard. Let the pressure cooker cool down naturally and release pressure. Remove the lid and discard the cinnamon and ginger. While cooking the beans you can also throw in a bit of Parmesan rind in it if you have it. I had it. I added it. Envy me please.
Heat 1 tablespoon cooking oil in a thick-bottomed pan and coat the bottom of the pan with it. Make sure the temperature is on high, and the oil sizzles when you throw in the meat. Add 250 gm. lean boneless meat (use goat meat, lamb meat, or lean beef. You can also use chicken or turkey if you are so inclined), cut in 1″ cubes, and fry till the meat turns opaque, about 3-4 minutes on each side, over medium-high heat.
Remove the meat and throw in 1/2 cup chopped onions. Fry the onions till they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup tomato puree, 1 tablespoon minced garlic and stir till the tomatoes are reduced. Add the meat, the beans, and 1 cup shelled green peas. Stir well, add 1 teaspoon cumin powder, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (or cayenne pepper), and 1 teaspoon dried oregano. Add some more water, about 500 ml., to make the soup more liquid.
Stir well. At this point, either cook, covered and simmered for 1 hour, or throw the soup back into the pressure cooker, and cook for another 20 minutes after the first whistle goes off. I love throwing in 150 gm. chopped chicken salami just before closing the lid of the pressure cooker, but that’s just me. You can totally scratch this part too, but the salami is so tasty with the soup. You can also use smoked sausage. Just throw them in with the meat while cooking. Once the meat is cooked, remove the lid, and mash part of the soup well to give it a thick consistency. You can, again, skip this step if you love chunky soups. Adjust salt, add a bit of pepper, and top with some grated cheese, chopped onions and green chillies before serving. I like it with loads of crusty bread and a big bottle of cold water afterwards.
|Meat and Bean Soup|
As I said, the key is to substitute things and make your own thing in the end, and do what pleases you.