Beans are among the healthiest, most delicious foods on earth. The Better Bean Cookbook (Sterling Epicure, 2014), by Jenny Chandler, is the essential modern guide to preparing beans with an illustrated guide to all dried beans, chickpeas and lentils. Both vegetarians and meat-eaters will enjoy these delicious bean dishes. This Latin American Soup recipe is from the section, “Soups.”
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A hearty, satisfying soup with vibrant fresh flavors. Serve the soup with sour cream, guacamole, corn tacos or toasted tortillas and you have a meal in a bowl.
There’s nothing new about this soup combination; variations exist throughout Latin America. Beans, corn and squash were the pillars of the ancient Central and South American diet. Just as beans and rice, or beans and bread, have been combined in other food cultures to provide precious protein, here it was beans and corn. The squash provided the essential vitamins and three humble crops became the mainstay of entire civilizations.
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 1 onion, diced
• 450 g/1 lb butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 5 cm/2 inch chunks
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed
• salt and pepper
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp sweet Spanish smoked paprika
• 1⁄2 tsp chili flakes
• 400 g/14 oz can of chopped tomatoes
• 300 ml/10 floz/11⁄4 cups vegetable stock (a good cube or bouillon powder will do)
• 250 g/9 oz home-cooked black beans or 1 x 400 g/14 oz can of black beans
• 200 g/7 oz sweet corn kernels
• Tabasco sauce (optional)
• juice of 1⁄2–1 lime, or 1 tbsp wine vinegar (optional)
• handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
• 150 ml/5 floz/2⁄3 cup sour cream
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion until soft and beginning to color. Add the squash and stir around for a couple of minutes. Toss in the garlic, a pinch of salt and the spices, and stir for about a minute, then tip in the tomatoes and stock. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the squash is just tender.
2. Scoop out about half of the squash with a little of the liquid, place in a deep container and purée with a hand-held blender. You could use a potato masher or blend all the soup in the saucepan, but I like the contrast of the large intact chunks of squash with the velvety soup. Return the puréed squash to the soup. Add the beans and sweetcorn, and a little water if the soup is very thick, and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Taste and balance the flavors with salt, pepper or Tabasco, lime juice or wine vinegar. Serve in bowls, with a scattering of cilantro and a large spoonful of sour cream.
Try These Variations to Your Latin American Soup
• making the soup in advance; the beans will soak up the flavors.
• Crumbling some Cheddar or Cheshire cheese into the soup instead of the sour cream.
• Serving with guacamole and tortilla chips.
• Creating a bit of table drama by grating over some dark chocolate as you serve.
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Reprinted with permission from The Better Bean Cookbook ©2014 by Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.