Friday, 1 November 2013

Have you Bean to India?

Zuppa di Fagioli Bianchi con Spezie Indiane
Indian-Spiced White Bean Soup

You can't beat a nice, hearty soup on a cold Winter's evening! This is true- and yet so many old, traditional soups need to simmer away for an hour or more to develop a good, rich flavor. In todays day and age, we all seem to be short on time and late home from work and it is often tempting to just reach for a convenience product, heat it up and be done with. Either that, or to eat out if our purse allows it... but not I! 

It's lovely to go out foe a meal with friends or with a loved on, but I am never going to be the type to go out for a meal on my own. Nope. And you won't find me at any fast-food joints either- nor ordering pizza! Nope- that's not me either! I simply know that it's possible to whip up something with very little effort and usually in very little time too! 

You may not find me eating a soup out of a can- but you will definitely find me using beans out of the can on occasion! You can soak them over night if you want- but if a bean's not fresh... well- it's just not fresh, is it? 

I think that beans and chickpeas out of the can are great, as are plum tomatoes. I am not against foods out of a can per se, if they are simply ingredients... but you will never find me eating a flavored, finished meal, soup or tomato sauce... I mean come on! Nobody should be that desperate! You can spice up and flavor your own meals, have fun whilst doing so and KNOW what you are eating, rather than eating those processed, chemical concoctions!

Ok- I shall stop ranting now... and I guess you have realized that the cooking time is going to be relatively short for this bowl of goodness, being as the beans are already pre-cooked :-) So how do we get them to taste fantastic in such a short time? Well, we need just a very few basic vegetables, a nice dose of spice and about 10 minutes of patience! I am sure we can all manage that!

I started the soup off by finely dicing a small onion, a clove of garlic, about 1" of ginger and half of a carrot. These all went into a deep frying pan, with a pat of clarified butter. Whist they started sizzling, I quickly added half a stalk of celery and the spices- 1 teaspoon of Panch Puren, 1 tablespoon of Garam Masala, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, a half teaspoon of fennel seed, a half teaspoon of cumin seed, a bay leaf and a little cayenne... I wanted the soup to be spicy but still mild!

Soon, everything became a rich, golden color and the aroma became richer as the spices sizzled and popped away. After 5 minutes or so, I added a tablespoon of tomato paste, stirred it in and then added the canned white beans, including the juices. I stirred them into the spiced vegetables and soon everything had taken on the deep orange yellow color of the spices and the aroma was just as wonderful too!

I adjusted the seasoning, adding a little salt and pepper as necessary, then topped it up with boiling water until there was the right amount of broth there for the soup. I reduced the heat to a gentle simmer and let it cook for a further 5-10 minutes, whilst I quickly set the table, and got ready to relax and enjoy. 

I served the soup up with a generous pinch of finely chopped parsley and chives and a tablespoon of yogurt, which was a great accent to the rich, spicy flavor. You can't get much easier and you can't get much tastier either! All you need is some common sense and some cool spices. It may not be "authentic" Indian... but chances are... you are not Indian! Get over it, get creative and get on with it! You can do it and you will have fun too! But most importantly- you have made it yourself, you know what went into it and you know it will be good for you... and that's what it is all about!

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