Many years ago I lived in California. Being from Canada my experience with Mexican food was limited to the local Taco Time menu. When I discovered authentic Mexican I was never able to return to Mexi Fries smothered in ‘Nacho Cheese Sauce’. From many neighbours and friends in Cali I managed to learn some awesome recipes and stored as many as I could in my head for future use. One that I love especially in the winter months is pinto bean soup. It’s unbelievably cheap and easy to make (though the beans do need to cook for several hours) and as the beans cook they infuse the water with a nutty flavour and fill your house with a wonderful aroma (who knew beans could smell so great?) Ladled into your bowl and topped with all of your favorite Mexican ingredients how can you go wrong? This recipe can easily be made vegan by using dairy-free sour cream and cheese. It’s also a great for a casual dinner party as people can add what they like to their own bowl of beans and broth. Just put your toppings into nice serving bowls and let people add whatever they love.
Mexican Bean Soup
Makes 4 Servings
Rinse your beans well and dig through them looking for any small rocks or chunks of dirt. Fill up a medium or large pot with water, add beans and bring to a boil. For un-soaked beans the fastest method is to put the pinto beans into a pan, cover with water at least three inches above the beans. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the beans sit for one hour with the lid on. The beans will then be plump and be ready to cook. Bring beans to boil again then reduce heat, add a clove or two of garlic (give it a good smash with the backside of your knife) and simmer with lid on for about two to three hours or until beans are nice and soft, checking every hour to make sure beans continue to have enough water.
For soaked beans – the slower method involves covering the pan of beans with water at least three inches above the beans and soak overnight. The next morning the beans will be plump and ready to cook. Pour beans into a colander and then refill the pot water covering beans at least three inches above the beans. Bring beans to boil. Reduce heat, add some garlic and simmer with lid on for about two to three hours or until beans are nice and soft, checking every hour to make sure beans continue to have enough water. I added at least 4 extra cups of water while they cooked.
Nearing the last 30 minutes of cooking you will add your salt. Salt will really bring out the natural flavour of the beans so don’t skimp too much. Add a little, taste, add more till you get the saltiness you prefer. Adding salt too early on will make the beans less tender.
You can also remove a handful of beans and mash them up and then add them back to the beans for a creamier broth.
Ladle the beans and broth into a big soup bowl. Add a dollop of sour cream and as much grated cheese as you like then top with finely sliced cabbage, diced tomatoes, chopped green onions and cilantro. Throw in some jalapenos or a few shakes of Tapatio hot sauce if you can handle the heat? Sit down, give it a good stir and enjoy! The leftovers are awesome for the next day or you can mash them up for re-fried beans – yum!