Black bean and pumpkin soup

Pumpkin and black bean soup

‘Return home soup’ has become a rare yet much cherished category of food for me, making an appearance whenever we’ve been away for a while (like the 20 days we just spent in Malaysia – more on that another day soon!).

After you’ve been in a different country, eating a totally different diet and not cooking at all (a situation of great good fortune, I know), sitting down to a big bowl of homely soup at your own table seems so perfect. For me this soup has to be chock-full of vegetables and legumes; crammed with all the nutrition and comfort I can muster. Making it feels important, something I need to do above all else.

Sometimes this soup is actually the reverse – ‘about to leave soup’, in the same style, made with the remaining few vegetables in the fridge, eaten with more grace than usual, thinking about the unknown (but exciting) weeks ahead.

There’s a thing I’ve noticed that happens before and after travelling – have you felt it too? An unexpected benefit that is not from the travel itself, but a surge of clarity and preciousness added to your home life immediately before and after … of course the feeling eventually wears off and home life becomes more like routine again. But for a lovely fleeting moment, I feel more alive to the beauty that is us, our house, a bowl of soup, than usual.

Italian chickpea soup (a flavoursome mix of carrot, celery and short pasta in a slick of chickpea gravy) has been our title holder in this category – and I actually do cook these soups at normal times, too. Another similar Italian soup of lentils, celery and pasta is a big family favourite.

I would have been happy to make either of those this time, but by a stroke of miraculous timing we arrived home (close to midnight) to a box of vegetables and fruit waiting on our doorstep. There was no celery inside (needed for the Italian soups), but I saw pumpkin, and through my blurry eyes, I remembered a soup I made once … Somehow I remembered where to find the recipe, and put the beans on to soak before I flopped into bed.

Pumpkin and black bean soup

black bean and pumpkin soup

Thanks to Anna, whose recipe from our children’s school cookbook I used and slightly altered. In hers she adds a blended, gazpacho-esque mix of fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic and herbs at the end of the cooking. You could say mine is the slightly lazy (and winter) version, but we absolutely love it!

1 cup dried black beans, soaked overnight (or use tinned)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
600 g pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 2 cm cubes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
salt and pepper
1 tin diced tomatoes (or equivalent chopped fresh tomatoes in season)
large handful of coriander (cilantro) or parsley – or both, chopped
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (or another vinegar you like)

If using dried beans, drain and boil them in a saucepan of fresh water until just soft (approximately 40 minutes–1 hour). (You might like to do what I do and cook more than you need, so you have leftovers.)

Combine the butter, oil and onion in a large saucepan and place over medium heat. Sauté the onion for a few minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another few minutes. Add the pumpkin cubes and cumin and toss with the onion for a few more minutes. Then add the tomatoes, 3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the drained cooked beans and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the coriander or parsley (or both) and the vinegar. Taste and add pepper, plus extra salt and vinegar if desired.

Serves 4

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