Sunday, 26 June 2011

Versatile Bean Soup

What with the rain, floods and the sudden chill, I decided to shelve the momos in sweet-and-sour sauce. Wait. I decided to shelve them... in favour of this thick, hearty, garlicky meat-and-bean soup that is just purr-fect for this weather.

Not that spicy fried dumplings aren't wonderful for the wet chill, but what with wobbly health and other pesky things, I'm trying to walk the gastronomic straight and narrow. Temporarily. And you can't marry flavour, heartiness and health better than in this soup, especially when the cold has seeped into your bones. Especially, if the blasted rain has cut off supplies to the local market, leaving you with bits and pieces from last week's shopping. And particularly especially, if you're a vegetarian and have had enough with the meat-monopoly on savoury goodness.

If none of those sell this soup to you, try this for garnish: It's easy. Sample the summary: sauté rajma (and chicken) with chopped onions, garlic, chilies and root vegetables. Add stock and water. Season with salt, sugar, cumin and chopped cilantro. Simmer. Done!

Wash about two handfuls of rajma thoroughly. Then soak them in room-temp. water for at least a day. People and cookbooks will tell you eight hours, but take it from me: eight hours is nowhere close for softening these rock-hard beans. You might change the water in between if you like, giving the beans another quick scrub in the process. If you're cooking the vegetarian version, skip right ahead to the actual cooking.

If you're open to meaty goodness, thaw a chicken leg (or any other meat-on-bone piece, but legs are best) about an hour or so before cooking. Rub it with lemon or lime juice and a little salt, and keep it aside. My father helpfully intervened to crack the juicy bone a little, because "More juices, more flavour". The soup did taste remarkably delicious, so he was probably right.

Chop quite a bit of garlic, one large red onion, and a couple of green chilies for flavour. Feel free to substitute local varieties of chilies for our kNachalonka. In the US I used to add chopped jalapeños, which gives the dish a distinctly different taste. Also, feel free to add carrots, broccoli florets, beet, and whatever else you like in your steaming pot of cold-weather soup.

Armed with everything you need, put your choice of kitchenware on a low flame. Heat half a tablespoon of oil. Take your pick from olive, sunflower, or canola. Of course, I use mustard, because I'm nothing if not predictable. Add the chopped vegetables, stir, and generally let cook over a low flame till the onions turn translucent and the garlic smells toasted. Then, for the meaty soup, toss in the chicken and let it brown.

Meaty version.

Add the rajma. Fold it in and keep stirring for a couple of minutes, then let it toast for another five. It's going to ooze juices and stain your pot. This is a good thing. Encourage it with gentle stirring.

The vegetarian version.

 Proof of the cooking (also the vegetarian version).

Give it a few final stirs, then pour in a tin of chicken or vegetable broth, or plain water.You'll need water even if you're using broth, because rajma needs a LOT of water to cook in. Skimping will probably char your pot. I speak from experience.

Now for the final touches: add salt, half a teaspoon of sugar (yes, I insist), and less than half a teaspoon of ground or powdered jeera/cumin. Mix it thoroughly with gentle stirs. When it's all mixed, add a handful of chopped coriander leaves and stalks, put the lid on, and let it simmer for about forty minutes.

Then turn up the flame so the whistle releases the steam inside, open the lid, and fish out the chicken. Most of the meat will have melted off the bone by now, but pick whatever is left, add it back to the pot, and throw the bone away.

Now reduce the soup to your preferred consistency. Some people like it quite thick, but I prefer it a little thinner during the monsoons (for me, the only heavy-soup season is a snowy winter). Had I been making this in winter, however, I would certainly have considered adding a dollop of soup cream to thicken it up :-) And the best part? This is fabulous with bread, rice, flatbreads, and by itself. You can big a big pot of it, and eat it in different ways over the week. A perfect dish for grad students, in other words.

Try it before the wet spell is over, folks!



Dea-chan said...

nom nom rimi! i was telling my mum about our spice problems, and she was like "have your friend get some from india, and pay her back if they have better spices!" so... yeah. spices please? i want tasty non-granulated sauces.

Tara said...

Yum. Perfect weather and everything is in the fridge.

Tara said...

Wrong email, but same thing no.

Priyanka said...

My mom makes something similar, only she adds soya beans too. it tastes divine =)

Magically Bored said...

This looks brilliant. Must try.