Beans! So many different kinds, and so many different varieties found around the world. But one thing we can all agree on – aside from the fact that they are a basic part of most of the world’s diets – is that they are yummy to the tummy any way, shape, or form we eat them! Beans are actually large seeds, included among the crops we call legumes in our diet pyramid. They are one of the longest-cultivated plants, longest of them all being the fava bean, known to exist around Afghanistan & Thailand since very, very long ago…predating ceramics! However, the oldest known domesticated beans were found in Peru, and most of the kinds commonly eaten today originally come from the Americas, being first seen by a European when Christopher Columbus found them growing in fields.
So basically, dry beans today come from both Old World varieties (fava beans, garbanzos) and New World varieties (kidney, black, cranberry, pinto). It would be impossible to talk about all the 40,000 bean varieties in the world gene banks, even though only a fraction are mass-produced for consumption. But some of the basic kinds – which I intend on trying them all! – are: fava beans, lima beans, pinto bean, kidney bean, black bean, green bean, black-eyed peas, cowpea, garbanzo bean, pea, lentils, hyacinth bean, and soybean!
In Honduras, both small red and black beans are grown. Small reds account for an estimated 95% of annual production (light reds being the preferred kind). Black beans are preferred in the northwest region, closer to Guatemala. Of the 10 crops that account for 94% of the country’s harvested area, dry beans make up 10.7% of that total area. Bean prices vary according to the months of harvest, often putting a strain on the population, as the bean constitutes an essential part of the Honduran diet – if not the one single food most of us can’t live without! And for that reason (and since we, Hondurans, are very picky about our beans) I was happy with my recent delivery of authentic Honduran small red beans, incomparable to the kidney bean substitute we have learned to love on this side of the ocean!
Of course, this would mean my ‘black bean soup’ should more appropriately be called ‘small red bean soup’, but for us in Spanish it’s the sound of the words sopa de frijoles that warms our hearts & tummies with familiar tastes & smells from home. As far as the recipe goes, this bean soup can be prepared with any variety of bean available to you. The health benefits are outstanding, and the usual garnishes of avocado, fresh cheese, & cream add just the perfect touch for a delicious & satisfying meal.
For the Beans
- 2 cups (400g) of beans, preferably black, red, or kidney
- 12 cups (3L) of water
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1/2 red onion
Although the general rule of thumb is to soak the beans overnight to lessen the cooking time and to make the beans more digestable, I use my heavy pressure cooker to do the job. However, I had to learn – trial & error, with many a bean mush failure – to get it right! So, I would recommend sticking to the soaking and boiling method if you’ve never cooked beans yourself. Otherwise, the beans will take forever & a day to cook!
Add water to a heavy cooking pot and set on medium heat. If the heat is too high, the beans will tear and look unsightly. Add the beans and pick out the ugly ones or those that don’t sink. Add the salt and 1/2 the red onion in one piece. Beans need to be left alone to cook, the less they are seasoned, the better. It is only until they are tender that they should be seasoned with your favorite things. Legend says that the onion helps in reducing the gas-inducing characteristic beans are famous for! Cook until tender, I usually taste as I go.
For the Soup
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
- 1 cup of chorizo meat
- 2 teaspoons of cumin
- 1 chicken bouillon cube
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup of water
- 2 cups of cooked black beans
- 5 cups of bean broth
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 2 slices of crispy bacon (for garnish)
- Fresh cheese, cubed (for garnish)
- Sour cream (for garnish)
- Cilantro (for garnish)
In a large soup pot, sauté the onions in the olive oil, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and keep stirring frequently, until fragrant. Stir in the chorizo meat and and the spices, allowing everything to cook for a few more minutes, continuing to stir often. With a whisk, add the butter and flour and stir constantly. Add the water and whisk until smooth.
Add the cooked beans with the bean broth and stir to combine the flavors. Add salt & pepper to taste. Simmer on low for about an hour. Serve with garnishes and toasted bread on the side.