Friday, February 28, 2014

Bean and Kale Soup

The Irish winter, as much as our Irish friends complain, isn't all that severe.  I hear over and over from most of the friendly people I meet here, "I'll bet the weather is nicer where you come from!"

I usually smile and point out the historically horrible winter that slaughtered Iowa this year.  Heavy snows, high winds, blizzard conditions, and arctic cold was the norm in Iowa this winter.  I feel bad checking the Iowa forecast from Dublin, especially considering the previous winter (2012-2013) and my last winter in Iowa for awhile was balmy by comparison.

Winter in Dublin hasn't been bad according to my Iowa experience.  I say Dublin and not Ireland because I know the winter has been severe and dangerous for those on the west coast of Ireland, with hurricane-force winds and rain flooding cities and knocking out power for days at a time.  Dublin has been relatively lucky by comparison.  The air temperatures don't drop below freezing very often, and we only received one humorous splash of fat-flake snow.

Nevertheless, winter cooking means it's soup time.  In our current less-meat-because-it's-expensive lifestyle, our protein comes more and more from beans.  In this soup, we combine a popular Irish green kale with a popular American legume, black eyed peas.

Black Eyed Peas (Beans) for soup
Black Eyed Peas (Beans)

Black eyed peas go by black eyed beans here, but I'll be sticking with the American peas just for my own comfort.  The dried black eyed peas are among the cheapest dried beans at the store, making them one of our standard go-to white beans.

Carrots and Potatoes for soup
Carrots and Potatoes

If I had celery, I would have used it.  This week, no celery.  Carrots and potatoes would provide our aromatics and our starch.

Greens for soup

How 'bout that greenage?  We had a big bag of kale on sale and half a bag of spinach on its last days of freshness.

Cut Kale for soup
Cut Kale

After removing the tough stems from the kale leaves and roughly ripping each leaf, I rinsed all the greens and set them aside.

Soaked and Rinsed Black Eyed Peas for soup
Soaked and Rinsed Black Eyed Peas

I soaked the dried beans in the refrigerator for a few hours while I prepared the rest of the ingredients and the bread.  Normally we would prefer an overnight soak, but we seldom have the presence of mind to plan meals even a scant 24 hours in advance.  A few hours would have to do, especially with what was coming...

Cooking down everything in the soup
Cooking Down Everything

We added the carrots, potatoes, and beans to a saucepan of chicken stock.  An extended hot boil softens those crunchy carrots and half-soaked beans.  After the hard veggies were cooked, in went the greens for the last few minutes, just until they were bright and soft.

Soup is blended with a stick blender

In classic split-pea soup tradition, we partially blended the soup, thickening the broth but leaving some chunks of veg.  Some soups work well when blended completely smooth, but I wanted this one just a bit chunky.  I'm impulsive and adventurous like that.

Soup is served with a slice of homemade bread
Did I Mention the Bread?

Oh yeah, I was making bread at the same time, but I didn't snap any photos.  Here's my standard easy-to-follow foolproof white bread recipe:

Dump some flour in a bowl
Pour in some salt
Sprinkle on some yeast
Squirt in a little oil (or don't)
Pour in some warm water
Knead until stretchy
Rise until big
Bake until done

Enjoy the last little bit of winter, everyone.  You know when the hot summer arrives you will be wishing for the bone-numbing cold (Iowa) and the refreshing late-winter winds (Dublin).


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