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Monday, 31 March 2014

Spiced black bean soup

For T.O.M

As I have written before, I have a bit of an obsession with Mexican culture. I have realised since writing that first post that it isn’t just about the gory history and the beautiful art, its about death. Or rather, about life and death – by acknowledging death, life can be really noticed, and appreciated much more. Colours are brighter and more saturated, music is louder and flavours are stronger and more vibrant.

This soup is adapted from Thomasina Miers’ book Mexican Food Made Simple. This is the third recipe I have made from that cookbook, the others being warm corn salsa and ceviche, and I definitely think it is wonderful. Mexican recipes can be tricky, the ingredients aren’t necessarily that easy to get hold of in the UK, and it is quite pig and shellfish focused, not that easy if you are vegetarian or kosher. This book however is really accessible and contains loads of suitable and delicious authentic recipes.

When I first made this soup, known in the book as ‘sopa azteca’, I was completely blown away by how delicious it was – I did not expect something so simple to make to taste so complex. It is rich and deeply savoury – it tastes almost meaty even though it is vegan.

Makes 4 servings


Two 380g cartons cooked black beans – don’t drain
2-4 fresh plum tomatoes, depending on how big they are
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
½ onion, or a whole one if it is smallish, diced
1 tsp chiptle paste
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
juice of 1 lime
salt and black pepper to taste.

Garnishes: (optional – it is very nice on its own too)
Tortilla chips, broken up
Feta or goats cheese, crumbled
Tomato salsa
Sour cream
Diced avocado (tossed with lime juice to stop it discolouring)


First you need to toast the tomatoes and garlic. Heat a frying pan (no oil needed) and when its really hot, add the tomatoes and garlic cloves. Let them blacken on all sides (charred splotches is fine, don’t worry about blackening them completely) and remove. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and roughly chop. Don’t worry if you can’t get all the skin off the tomatoes.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the diced onion and sauté for about 5 minutes until translucent. Then add the garlic, tomatoes and chipotle paste, and fry off for about a minute before adding the beans with their water, stock and lime juice.

Let the soup simmer for 20 minutes, blend, and season to taste. Serve on its own, or with some of the garnishes suggested above.

Sorry again about the lack of photo – have a poem instead.

Christine M. Strickland

Frida Kahlo has come to dinner,
Late, as usual, a little drunk, as usual,
Scattering fag ash like confetti,
Partnered by her perpetual pain
Whose grim claws she wears as lightly
As the ribbons on her dress.
Undefeated, her thirst for life unquenched,
There is more energy in her hair
Than in my entire body.
The brass band of her beads and bangles
Transforms her limping steps
Into a fiesta dance, all rainbow skirts
And flashing teeth and eyes.
Frida Kahlo has come to dinner,
Though eating frankly bores her,
Gets in the way of talking, drinking,
Smoking, making love.
Aware of this I give her tiny pastries
Olives, nuts, morsels of spiced meat;
Fuel for her flame, swallowed without tasting.
Frida Kahlo has come to dinner
And the carnival never stops.
Her long hands are two kites,
Trailing coloured tails of laughter,
Sketching, in the smoky air between us,
Whole galleries of portraits.
Frida Kahlo has been to dinner
And is now gone, taking the party with her,
Leaving this withered Puritan
Faded, dusty, unbearably alone.

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