Sunday, 2 November 2008


Edinburgh is extraordinarily beautiful in Autumn. And bloody freezing. Wrapped in a scarf and gloves, I could happily walk for miles on a clear dry day but once at home I like to be snug and warm. Home is a big old flat complete with the obligitory high ceilings, Edinburgh press, laundry pulley and old sash windows with original glass. The windows may look the part but are unfortunately less effective at retaining heat. I have therefore taken to padding around in several layers of clothing, clutching a hot water bottle and all the while bemoaning the recent drop in temperature. Am I too young for an electric blanket?

One of the best things about the cold weather season is the food. Warming food, comfort food, hairs-on-your-chest food. This is the season for brown food. I do not mean a neurotic eating system for crazy people who will only eat food of a single colour, but a food genre, if you will. Brown food is the term I use to define certain rich, hearty dishes. Dishes which usually contain meat, more-often-than-not red wine and are generally some sort of stew affair. Beef bourguignon (the King of brown foods), coq au vin, a good intense bolognaise (not too tomato-ey), cottage pie, roasted leg of lamb served with the pan juices, a warming Chilli. These are the dishes I invariably crave when it's icy outside.

I came across a Thomasina Miers recipe in the November issue of the Sainsbury's Magazine with brown food written all over it - a thick black bean soup with chorizo and chipotle chilli. While I didn't try using it as a sealant on the windows its flavour did provide a perfect antidote to the cold outside: the smokey heat of the chipotle enhances the chorizo which along with velvety smooth black beans produces a deeply savoury and comforting soup.

OAXACAN BLACK BEAN SOUP adapted from Thomasina Miers' recipe in Sainsbury's Magazine November 2008
Serves 8

350g dried black beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
150g chorizo, chopped into small cubes
1/2 small fennel bulb, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh taragon
2 bay leaves
1 large dried chipotle chilli, rehydrated and finely chopped
pinch smoked paprika
1 tablespoon Nam Pla
juice of 1 lime

Soak the beans in cold water for at least four hours or overnight. Drain, and rinse in cold water.

Heat the oil in a large casserole and add the shallots and chorizo. Cook over a medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes until the onion is translucent and the chorizo has released some of it's oil. This will add flavour to the soup and give a silky texture to the beans.

Add the beans, fennel, herbs, chipotle chilli and paprika and cover with at least 5cm of cold water. The beans will be much more tender if they have planty of water. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 2 hours until the beans are tender.

Blend until smooth and season with the fish sauce and lime juice to taste. Thin with water if necesary.

Serve topped with fried crisp chorizo and dried chilli flakes.

1 comment:

Gemma said...

That looks and sounds good but I am always put off her recipes because she is so intensely irritating and I'm convinced the most annoying people always win masterchef - her (a fix I think), James instead of the crazy but brilliant 18 year old, smug Matt Rugby player whose surname I can't remember either - grr. Anyway aside from that little rant yes it looks lovely and don't worry London is bloody freezing as well so you're not alone.

Gemma x

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