Friday, 21 December 2007

Black-eyed bean soup (Μαυρομάτικα φασόλια)

Black-eyed beans and lentils are sold in packets at the supermarket. They make the easiest soupy dhal meal that is eaten in Greece as a main meal throughout the year, especially during lenten periods (ie pre-Easter, pre-Christmas and pre-Assumption of the Virgin Mary). The recipe is the same for both kinds of beans, except that lentils need only a good rinse, whereas black-eyed beans need to be boiled to get rid of toxins in the skin of the beans. Black-eyed are not only made into a tomato-based soup (like this one); they are also combined in hot meals with fresh greens, as well as cold dishes such as green salads. You can freeze this soup in individual servings similar to fasolada, but as it's so easy to make, I recommend this only forbachelor types.

You need:
250g of black-eyed beans
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, minced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
500g fresh tomato, pulped
1 teaspoon of tomato paste
salt, pepper and oregano
Boil the beans rapidly for five minutes, then strain in a colander (this is to get rid of toxins). Pour the oil in the pot to cover the bottom, and brown the onion and garlic in it. Then add the washed beans and tomatos. In the winter, if I haven't got any fresh tomato, I use the canned variety, with a little tomato paste. They work just as well. I even added ketchup once when I made a bean soup in England, and it tasted fine! Add some salt, pepper and oregano; chili goes well with this dish. Now add enough water to cover the beans up to 3-4cm above the top. Cover the pot, and cook on a slow heat for two hours. If the beans are still crunchy and the water has evaporated, add some more water and continue to boil away until the beans are cooked.

Some people throw a fistful of rice in the pot in the last 15 minutes of cooking time, to make the meal lighter, in the same way that we do for lentils. This is fine if you intend to eat this meal on the day you serve it. Rice tends to go mushy if kept in liquid, so I don't prefer this meal with rice. If you do intend to serve it with rice, make sure you rinse off as much starch as possible form the rice by running cold water over the rice in a colander. This will help the rice to stabilise better once it is cooked. Serve the beans plain or with some roast meat or fish of your choice. Squeeze some olive juice (or vinegar - both are optional) over the soup once you have ladled it into individual soup plates. Serve hot with plenty of crusty bread and gruyere cheese.

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