27 January 2008

Recipe: Mixed Bean Soup with Ham (and Swiss)

This is my second time posting this particular soup, but I've changed it a little and this is probably the better picture. (Still get the slightly weird colour though off tomato based soups. Such a strange orange. I suppose I should learn to adjust things like that in photoshop, but that seems like so much effort.)

At any rate, I wanted to post the recipe so that I don't lose it. I kind of cobbled it together myself from a few different places and have been adjusting bits of it and I'm pretty happy with it, so I'd hate to lose it now.

Mixed Bean Soup with Ham
Makes about 10 cups.

1-2 tbsp olive or canola oil
1 lg onion, diced
3 carrots, diced, sliced or chopped
3 celery stalks, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced

3 dried bay leaves
1 tbsp + 1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground sage
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp marjoram
1 tsp cilantro
1/8-1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder

1 19oz/540ml can mixed beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock (reduced sodium!)
1 19oz/540ml can crushed or diced tomatoes
4oz/110g cooked ham, cubed
2oz/60g Swiss cheese, cubed (optional)

freshly ground black pepper to taste
fresh cilantro for garnish, chopped (optional)

1. Cook the onions, carrots, and celery in oil until softened. I tend to leave the vegetables with a little bit of a bite to them, but they probably cooked (today) over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes. If you do it for that long, you can just add things as you chop, you don't need to have it all prepped before starting. Keep the heat low enough that the onions don't burn. Once the onions, at least, are softened, add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. I gave a range for the oil because I'm not really sure what I used. I started with probably a little less than 1 tbsp, but I added more when I added the celery (that was the last thing I chopped) because it seemed a little dry. Also, I have a tendency to be chintzy with oil, so you might want to use more.

2. Add all the herbs, stirring to coat the vegetables. I didn't have any oregano today, so I used basil and parsley in place of it, and that tasted quite good. Before the mixture dries out too much, add in the rinsed beans. Stir to coat them with the spice mixture as well, and let cook for a couple minutes - it'll add a nicer flavour to the beans than if you just pour the stock in straight away.

3. Add stock, crushed tomatoes, and diced ham to the vegetable base. Bring up to a boil, then let simmer for as long as you want to wait for supper. I probably leave it about 30 minutes before eating. Taste before serving, adjust seasonings and add black pepper. Garnish with a little grated Swiss cheese or chopped cilantro or both or neither.

It won't be spicy at all with the amount of chipotle chili powder I've suggested, but it should have a smoky flavour. If you want a spicy soup, add more chili powder (though maybe just a regular one, rather than chipotle, since I find the smokiness can be overwhelming if you use too much) or some cayenne pepper or add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the mirepoix.

If you happen to have old dried out Swiss cheese, this is a really nice way to use it up. Chop it up and toss it into the soup along with the ham and it'll kind of get stringy and lovely in the soup, but doesn't completely dissolve or melt into the soup. (That's what I did today.) If you have fresher Swiss, use it as a garnish or stir in just before serving. If you have no Swiss (or don't like it), just skip that bit.

Also, this works really well as a vegetarian or vegan soup - just leave out the ham/cheese and be sure to use a vegetarian vegetable stock. You'll probably need to add salt, though, since the ham does the job of adding salt to the non-veg. version.

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