Monday, September 27, 2010

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup Recipe plus bonus Chilli-Cheese 5-minute Cornbread

I used to love cooking this soup on a Friday afternoon back when I was a student and black beans were a rare commodity, only occasionally found in some out-of-the way deli in one of the posher corners of Edinburgh. The beans turn a dark purple and the celery would create a green foam which made it look like a veritable witch's cauldron. The original stove-top recipe is from one of my all time most-thumbed cook books, The New York Cook Book which I picked up on my first back-packing trips to the States. 

I wanted to see if I could create a slow-cooker version and if I could adapt my usual microwave cornbread recipe to include the cheese, sweetcorn and jalapenos which Jamie Oliver includes in his cornbread recipe in Jamie's America.  The cornbread recipe's at the bottom.

I've written down the soup recipe in cups as I omitted to weigh the beans but you can use a measuring jug to measure the beans by volume. 

Ingredients for 4 generous portions:

1 1/2 cups (or use your measuring jug to get about 380 ml by volume) black beans, dried and unsoaked (aren't I naughty? I never soak beans for the slow cooker)
3 cups (750 L) chicken stock, made up with 2 cubes*
3 sticks celery, ideally with leaves, chopped

3 tbsp lemon juice
a slug dry sherry (optional)
salt and pepper

* see verdict - I think this was too much


Cook the beans, stock, celery and onion on High for 8-10 hours or until the beans are done. DO NOT add salt or lemon juice or the beans won't cook!

Once beans are soft, blend 3/4 of the soup with a hand-held stick blender or in the liquidiser. Add lemon juice, more or less to taste, salt, ditto, and a little dry sherry if you fancy it.


This was blah and it took me ages to figure out why but basically I hadn't reduced the water enough from the original recipe and, as it doesn't evaporate in the slow cooker, the soup was too thin. It should be more porridgy. So the taste was there (the lemon juice cuts the fugginess of the beans perfectly) but the volume was turned way down on the taste front. I suggest  about 550 ml or just over 2 cups.

A great way to have this the next day or to vary the recipe is to add a can of tomatoes, replace some of the lemon juice with lime juice and throw in at least 2 tsp of Schwartz's Fajita seasoning (or chilli powder, cumin, coriander). You might like some leaf coriander (cilantro) with this. It's surprisingly good cold, and works well with sour cream. Yum! I'd have it more often but I feel a little unfaithful to the old recipe....

Chilli-Cheese Cornbread

Basic version without chilli and cheese - sourced from

1/2 cup/75g flour - we use wholemeal
1/2 cup/75g coarse cornmeal or polenta
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup/120 ml milk - I used semi-skimmed
pinch salt
1 egg, beaten.
2 tsp baking powder


Mix all ingredients and pop into microwave on High for 3 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean.

And now to super-charge your cornbread...

Add 3/4 cup or 100g grated mature cheddar, 4-5 rings of jalapeƱos from a jar, minced (more or less to taste), 3/4 cup/150 g sweetcorn from a can (or defrosted briefly in microwave if frozen) to the batter before putting in the microwave. You could also add fajita seasoning but I'm trying to wean myself off it! This little lot will need 4 minutes rather than 3 in the microwave.


Oh hello! Come to Mama! This was sooo good. I loved the chewiness of the slightly undercooked sweetcorn and the texture it provided. This had it all going on. Try it. It'll be a good use of 10 minutes, I promise you. You might want to leave out the chillis if this is to accompany a bowl of chilli. Goes brilliantly with bacon and eggs too!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tex-Mex slow cooker soup recipe

Tortilla soup won't likely be a familiar idea to you unless you've been Stateside but it's really easy and if you like Tex-Mex food, you should try it. Old El Paso don't do a kit for this unfortunately but I'll talk you through it and it'll be fine. Promise! It's also potentially pretty healthy, like a Mexican Minestrone with lots of veggies in it and you can free-style it and clear out the fridge.

Doesn't it look pretty?
Ingredients for 5 (that's just the way it worked out)

750 ml (3 cups) chicken stock
About 400g cooked chicken (that's about a cereal bowl full or half a medium roast chicken)
1/2 onion, chopped
300g/1 tin or 1 cup sweet corn - I used mine from frozen
2 spring onions/scallions
2 tins chopped tomatoes
small bowl of chopped veggies - I used celery, carrot, peppers (green and yellow) and they were all somewhat past their best.
4 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp cumin
salt to taste

To serve - all optional extras

Chopped coriander/cilantro
Tortilla chips
Corn tortillas
sour cream
avocado slices, doused in lime juice to prevent browning
grated cheddar cheese

Put all of the ingredients in your pot and cook on High for 4 Hours or Low for 8. The main thing is to see that your carrots are soft. Mine weren't quite perfect after 4 hours, but I was hungry so ignored that fact!

To serve - the healthy way. Cut corn tortillas into strips and lay into the bottom of your bowl with the ends hanging over the edge. Pour the soup over the top and garnish with preferred additions.

The less healthy way - put a handful of tortilla chips of your preferred flavour in the bottom of the bowl and ladle soup over the top. Top with sour cream, cheddar and avocado.


This came close to knocking my favourite soup off it's top spot. There was so much interesting stuff going on and the flavours were all zippy and fresh. I was suspicious that the tortilla chips would go all soggy and they did, but it was fine. They seemed happy that way. This is probably what I will do with leftover roast chicken in future. I couldn't believe how easy it was. It was either quite spicy this way or my hand slipped with the chilli flakes but you might want to adjust down if you don't like your food too hot. It will still be great.  

Boeuf Bourgignon - The definitive slow cooker recipe

You can't go to Burgundy and not at least try cooking Boeuf Bourgignon. Unless you're vegetarian. In which case, the sight of these very pretty cows might put you off. They were in the field right behind our holiday house. This photo makes me want to go back sooooo much!
So does this!

BB (I may have taught French but I really can't of all that tricky spelling repeatedly late at night) may just be the perfect stew for those of us who don't like stew. That's probably because it has wine in it. Here's how to make it:

Ingredients for 6 portions:

800g - 1KG (about 2lbs) lean stewing beef, traditionally cut into big 2''/4 cm chunks
1 tbsp oil 
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tin tomatoes, chopped
200g/2 cups button mushrooms, chopped roughly
500ml/ 1pt Burgundy red wine (or another dry red)
1 tsp dried thyme
bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste


Using the oil, brown off the beef on all sides in a frying pan. Pop into the stoneware of your slow cooker. Add all other ingredients. Cook on High for 4 hours or Low for 8. Serve with rice, roasted veg, a green salad and a knowing Gallic shrug. Just because. 


Yum! And I'm not a big stew fan. The flavours are full and rounded. This isn't a huge surprise as it's a classic recipe but neither is it bland at all. It's the kind of thing to cook for someone who needs impressing but who prefers more traditional fare, such as maybe a future mother-in-law or a picky great uncle. But seriously, cook this anyway, even if those two tricky social situations don't apply to you. If your cooing wine is half way decent then there'll be a generous glass for the cook left over ;>)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bethlehem Beans - slow cooker recipe

Sometimes you adapt a favourite recipe for the slow cooker and it works beautifully, first time,

This wasn't one of those times.

Frankly I should have seen it coming. I know rice takes about 3 hours in the slow cooker and dried beans generally take 8 so why I thought they would be ready at the same time, I don't know. I think it was holiday brain. (yes, talking of holidays, the Bouef Bourgignon recipe is coming by the way and it's a good un!).

Anyway, I've given 2 methods so that you can make this otherwise wonderful mix of flavours without the very mushy rice porridge effect which we were left with. The recipe, by the way, apparently came from Bethlehem but I found the stove top version on the awesome site

Ingredients for 6 portions:

1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup uncooked rice
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cayenne
1 L/quart chicken stock
500-750 g turkey mince/ground turkey
2 tins chickpeas/garbanzo beans
2 tins black beans (see method below for dried beans)
1 large bunch coriander/cilantro, chopped
1 large bunch parsley, chopped.
salt and pepper to taste


Brown the turkey, add the spices to the meat and then place with the rest of the ingredients up to the black beans into the slow cooker. Cook for 3 hours on High Check for seasoning and add coriander , parsley, salt and pepper.

If you want to use dried beans, cook for 8 hours on High but only add the rice 3 hours before the end.


The texture the way we made it was stodgy but we still loved the flavours and it would be fine the way I've suggested above. I love Middle Eastern cooking and this had all my favourite flavours in it with the fresh herbs adding a real zing to it, It's also really healthy and makes a ton of food,

Friday, September 3, 2010

In search of the perfect Bouef Bourgignon

Gentle reader,

I am off to Burgundy in a mere matter of hours in order to get to know the "terroir" behind this classic French dish. I assure you that I will spare no effort in my attempts to perfect this dish. No bottle of cheap red in the whole of Burgundy will be safe, no doe-eyed Charollais cow will sleep soundly at night. Mushrooms will  quake in fear and onions come out in a cold sweat, lest they be chosen.

Yes, in other words, I'm off on my hols to France and, since there's a slow cooker in the house we're going to, I suspect there'll be many a posting when I get back.

For now though, au revoir and happy slow cooking!

Ms Blighty