Winter Bean Soup


One of my and Jodie's wedding gifts was Elin Kristina England's cookbook Eating Close to Home: A Guide to Local Seasonal Sustenance in the Pacific Northwest. With recipes organized by season, I've enjoyed trying winter recipes and brightening up gray days with tasty food.

The Mix

On page 50-51, the "Bean Soup Mix" and "Might Fine Bean Soup" recipes inspired me to raid our cupboards and start mixing dry beans and grains for a soup base:

"Anasazi beans, pinto beans, black turtle beans, black-eyed peas, Great Northern beans, baby lima beans, large lima beans, green and yellow split peas, small red beans, adzuki beans, barley. Go have fun in your local bulk foods section, filling bags with fairly equal amounts of each of the above. Take them home, mix in a big jar, and when you need a pot of soup, retrieve about 2 cups of the mix and off you go! This is my favorite blend of beans, but obviously, the variations are endless."

I mixed together equal parts of the following, but as England says, use whatever sounds good and/or what you have on hand:

  • Split peas
  • Yellow lentils
  • Adzuki beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Black beans
  • Navy beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Barley (bulgar wheat or quinoa are other good grains to consider)


It's pretty — but is it tasty?


The Soup

With 2 cups of this mix, garlic, bay leaves, frozen beef stock, and
some pork and beef bones, I whipped up a hearty bean soup, perfect both
for a January night and for thick crusty bread.

Here's the ingredient list from England's Mighty Fine Bean Soup recipe, on page 51:

  • 2 cups Bean Soup Mix
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 smoked ham hocks
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-quart jar of tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved, or 1 large can plum tomatoes, or an equivalent amount of frozen tomatoes
  • 1-1/2 tsp. chili powder or 1 chopped chile pepper or 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Juice of 1 lemon

I made a couple of modifications:

  • We didn't have a ham hocks, so instead I got a pork bone and beef bone out of the freezer, sauteed them in the olive oil with chopped onion and garlic, and left them in during the 2-hour simmer
  • Substituted 2 cups of the water with beef stock
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • Also made a note of future modifications, such as adding different vegetables, potentially including potatoes, greens, celery, carrot

The prep for this soup is easy, and the 2-hour simmer time requires nothing from the cook.

England recommends the traditional step of soaking the beans overnight, which I don't bother with. After sauteing the bones, onion and garlic, I added the bay leaf, beans and liquid, bringing everything to a boil, then covering, reducing the heat and simmering for 2 hours (one hour of which Jodie and I used for our yoga date). After the two hours, I added salt, pepper, chili powder, lemon juice, and tomatoes, simmered a few more minutes, then let the soup rest for 10 minutes before tucking in.

The result? A tasty, simple soup that is hearty good eating on a winter night.


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