Monday, November 3, 2014

Quick Baked Bean Soup

When we first got here and we began to explore our local supermarkets, I was really surprised to see cans of “baked beans” selling for 29 (euro)cents. That’s the regular price. I got a few cans and we kept them in the cupboard until one day they seemed like they’d be a nice addition to lunch. Well. It was a little surprise to discover that “baked beans” means something different here than what I was thinking. They are nothing like the baked beans I’ve eaten for half a century, but rather like pork and beans without pork. They do not seem seasoned at all--just little white beans in a tomato sauce. Bland. So I started doctoring them up when I planned to serve them, cooking some onions, peppers and garlic to add, sprinkling in some chilli (chili) powder or, if I’m really in a hurry, grinding in some of the dried chilli mixture I get at SuperValu and love so much.

One day I needed an idea for supper. I was in the mood for soup. I came up with this and we enjoyed it so much that we’ve had it several times since, including tonight. As with just about everything I cook, it’s never the same twice because I use whatever veggies I have. I keep onions, carrots, garlic, bell peppers, garlic, and potatoes around as staples. Sometimes I have frozen peas or corn, if I can fit them in the freezer. Besides those kinds of produce, we pick up what is on sale or clearance at the grocery stores. This varies, so whatever I have that needs using goes in the soup.

To the usual puddle of olive oil, add various chopped veggies, such as onion (or use a leek instead), carrot, garlic, and bell pepper. You could also add celery, zucchini, broccoli, a little cabbage, and/or cauliflower. Sweat the veggies, stirring them around, for a few minutes. Add some chopped potatoes (frozen peas, corn, or mixed vegetables could also be added here) stir them in, and just barely cover the veggies with water. Let them cook until the potatoes are soft.

Dump in a can or two of chopped tomatoes in juice and a can or two of the beans (you can also just use plain canned beans, drained and rinsed--if you use these, add a can of tomato sauce, too, if you want or leftover pasta sauce). Add some dried herbs or spices--I’ve done this with basil, oregano, and parsley for an Italian-ish soup and I’ve made it with chilli powder. It’s good either way.

I sometimes serve this as is with something on the side--cheese or hummus with crackers, some kielbasa, a sandwich, or a roll and butter. Today I made cheesy baps--I spread whole grain mustard on bap halves, topped with some emmental cheese and stuck it in the oven to toast the bap slightly while the cheese melted. Bill had ham on his, too.
These are seeded baps, which we like a lot for various things.

I have also served this soup over cooked brown rice, pasta, and tortellini and nothing else on the side.

It’s a handy dish, because it doesn’t require me to take anything out of the freezer ahead of time; it’s very adaptable to whatever I have on hand; it can be spiced to make it different each time; it’s a great thing to put over leftover rice or pasta; it’s nutritious; and it tastes great. My largest pot has a capacity of 3 litres and that makes enough for a few meals.

I’ve been buying cans of baked beans and chopped tomatoes to keep in the cupboard. Canned beans are a bit expensive here and the type of available bean is pretty limited anyway. A can of kidney beans runs about 1.40 euro and a good portion of the contents of the can is water. I can buy a can of baked beans for 29 cents--since they are so bland to begin with, they can take whatever herbs and spices I want to add. They come in tomato sauce, so I can just use that too--I’d probably be adding tomato sauce or puree (paste) anyway, if I was using plain beans. So I can get 4 cans of the baked beans for less than 1 can of plain beans. I still buy dried beans (selection is limited) and use them, but that requires me to begin a day before I want to use them--soaking them all day and cooking overnight in the slow cooker. The baked beans are good for last minute use.
 I am also trying to make sure that we have a decent supply of food and other necessities in the apartment. We heard some stories last week about the winter of 2010, when it apparently got to -18C here, resulting in frozen and burst pipes among other things. I’ve read a couple of news stories today about this weather guy who is predicting “brutal” cold and snow for Ireland over the next few months. I am not sure exactly what that means. They are not set up for that kind of thing here at all. If there was snow where we are, it would be a huge mess. The roads would be a disaster but I fear that this would not stop the boy racers and other NASCAR wannabes that are always out there from zooming around. I would like to be able to stay up here and watch the mayhem from my window if it comes to that!

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