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Brian's Black Bean Soup
Chase the chill with a hearty bowl of hot soup. It’s good stock!

In the winter months, there are few things as utterly glorious as a bowl of tasty soup on a Sunday afternoon. Smelling something bubbling merrily away on the stovetop reminds me of hitting the lodge after a day of skiing. Comfort is a bowl away.

Soup-making can be surprisingly versatile. While there are a couple of simple rules relating to choice of base and stock, there really is no end to the tweaking you can do to any recipe. I encourage you to try, test and experiment using what you find below. (And let me know what works!)

The great thing about soup is that it's fairly simple—a medley of things your grandmother would recognize and a fourth-grader would be able to pronounce, all working together to make you happy. Michael Pollan would be proud.


What you'll need

Serves 6

A couple glugs of cooking oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, crushed and then coarsely chopped
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 cups chicken (or vegetable stock to keep this meat-free)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 15-18 ounce cans black beans, rinsed so that none of the liquid in the can is left
¼ cup cilantro leaves, plus enough to garnish held aside
200 grams or 7 ounces of old cheddar

How it'll go down

In a large bowl, throw in your chopped onion, crushed (use the flat side of a larger knife to press it against the cutting board) and then coarsely chopped garlic, and the spices. If you don't like things spicy at all, feel free to skip the cayenne pepper. Remove the leaves from your cilantro, setting them aside for later. Chop the cilantro stalks and add them to the bowl.

Put a large pot on medium-high heat and add a couple glugs of good cooking oil. Once the oil is hot, dump the contents of your bowl of wonders into the pan. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the onions and spice really start sticking to the bottom. Add the full can of diced tomatoes—juice and all. Let that cook for 3-4 minutes before adding your broth and the black beans. Bring the whole mess to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let it bubble gently away for 30 minutes.

Once the soup is done simmering, blend the soup, using a hand (immersion) or traditional blender until things are smooth, but still have some texture. No big chunks. Add in the chopped cilantro leaves, season with salt and pepper to taste and then serve with sour cream, freshly grated old cheddar, and some of the reserved garnish. Fresh bread is the perfect companion.

For those interested in a couple variations, try including a minced red chilli with the onions and spices or simmer a little chopped chicken after you've blended the soup. Adding a little avocado or a lime wedge on the side is another nice way to freshen things up.

Originally published in Comment, the opinion journal of CARDUS. February 19, 2010.

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