Thursday, 5 February 2015

Bableves - Hungarian Bean Soup

The local grocery has been selling some Hungarian style cold cuts and sausages lately, and since we have loads of dried beans from our garden, this seemed like a good idea. I don't know that this is a super authentic recipe, as in my customary style I have had my way with it.

Most recipes do call for the addition of some vinegar, but I had sauerkraut to use up, and a jar more full of brine than dill pickles. Dill is certainly used often in Hungarian cooking and fits in well here. I'm saying you could use sauerkraut brine, but I have to confess that most sauerkraut doesn't seem to have much.  I started putting in a quarter of a cup of dill pickle brine at a time, but this is a big pot of soup and I ended  up adding 3/4 of a cup. Start with a bit less and remember my motto - you can always add more, but once it is in, it is in. If you don't have brine and want to add vinegar, use less - start with half and taste before adding any more.

Mr. Ferdzy liked this just fine which makes me  happy as, unlike me, he is not a big (or any) fan of sauerkraut. I'm sure his Lithuanian ancestors are all turning in their graves as I type that. I'm going to convert him yet, though. Just wait and see.

If you can't get a Hungarian sausage, Kielbasa would do in a pinch.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time
NOT including cooking the beans

Bableves - Hungarian Bean Soup

450 grams (1 pound) dried beans
4 cups ham or chicken stock
2 medium onions
2 cups peeled, diced celeriac or chopped celery
2 medium carrots
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons bacon fat or vegetable oil; or a bit more as needed
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
450 grams (1 pound) smoked Hungarian style lean pork sausage
2 cups drained sauerkraut
1/2 cup sauerkraut or dill pickle brine (or more, to taste)
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
some yogurt or sour cream if you would like

Rinse and pick over the beans, and put them in a large soup pot with plenty of water to cover. Bring them to a boil, then cover them and turn off the heat. Leave them for an hour or two. Repeat 2 or 3 more times, until they are tender. Do this the day ahead.

When ready to proceed, drain off excess cooking water until the top layer of beans are just uncovered, with the rest sitting in the cooking water. Add the ham or chicken stock, and bring them back up to a simmer.

Peel and chop the onions. Peel and dice the celeriac, or trim and chop the celery. Peel and dice the carrots. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the fat or oil in a large skillet, and cook the onions, celeriac, and carrots until softened and reduced in volume; stir frequently. While they cook, cut the sausage into large bite-sized chunks.

When the vegetables are ready, add the garlic and the paprika, and mix in well; cook for another minute or so then add them to the beans. Add the sausage to the skillet, with a little more fat if it seems necessary, and brown the pieces of sausage on both sides. Add them to the beans. Add the sauerkraut, chopped up a bit if it seems coarse, and the brine. Taste the soup and add a bit more brine if you want it and have it, or start seasoning the soup with salt (and pepper) to taste. As ever, much will depend on your stock, and also the saltiness of the sauerkraut and brine. There should be enough sauerkraut/brine flavour to give a good background tang.

Simmer the soup for 20 minutes to half an hour before serving. Also as ever, bean soups are best reheated the next day. Serve it with a dollop of thick yogurt or sour cream, if you like. A lot of the recipes I've seen call for dumpling or noodles, but that seems like overkill to me. This will fill you up and stick to your ribs just as it is.

Last year at this time I made Beans Stewed with Cabbage & Mushrooms, and Mexican Rice Pudding.

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