Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Easy Spicy Bean Soup

ham & butter bean soupThis simple bean soup is virtually effortless and foolproof.  Although in the South it's traditionally made with lima beans or their larger brethren butter beans, you can use pretty much any kind of dried bean such as navy, kidney, pinto, great white, or a combination of beans.  The traditional version also isn't spicy, so feel free to reduce or omit the hot sauce if you prefer.  Butter bean soup is sometimes served during this time of year as part of a Kwanzaa feast.  In that spirit, I have suggested using a good-tasting hot sauce made with the peri-peri pepper (also called the African bird's eye pepper), which is popular in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa and elsewhere in Africa.  You'll want to use dried beans, not canned, for this recipe because the slow cooking used with dried beans will give you the best flavor for the soup.  Just remember to soak the dried beans overnight.

1 lb. dried lima (or other) beans, soaked overnight, drained & rinsed
2 quarts chicken broth, preferably homemade or organic
2 cups water*
1 cup diced country ham
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1 small bell pepper or other sweet pepper, chopped
2 tsp dried thyme OR 1 tsp thyme + 1 tsp oregano
1 tsp (or to taste) peri-peri hot sauce such as Nando's Hot Sauce or African Rhino Peri Peri Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional garnishes:  Diced white onion, diced tomatoes, chopped parsley, chopped fresh thyme

*For richer flavor, you can use 2 cups of chicken or beef broth instead of water

Place all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until beans are soft--about 2 hours.  Serve with cornbread or cooked rice and a side of cooked greens such as collards, kale, turnip or mustard greens for a hearty winter dinner.

Zestfully yours,

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