Winter Bean Soup

Picture to come!

This soup is not an exact recipe, but it’s something I make variations of all the time in the winter. As you might know, Japanese homes don’t have central heating, so winter can feel especially chilly. Like most people, we use our “aircon” (in Japan, they function both as AC in the summer and heaters in the winter) and space heaters to heat only the room we are in. But we also try to keep the heat low and wear sweaters. During the day I sometimes make this soup for lunch as another way to keep warm.

Japan Notes: Dry beans are one of the few things I have really not been able to find in Japan. Of course, there are plenty of soybeans and azuki beans, and I have seen dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in import stores, but canned black or kidney beans are quite hard to find, and I have never seen dried beans. We get ours from family members in the U.S.

Ingredients

dried mixed beans
water
red pepper flakes
onion
garlic
vegetable bouillon
salt and pepper to taste, other toppings if desired

Instructions

Follow the instructions on your beans for how to cook them. Some require soaking. Mine just require simmering for 2 hours, so I usually put them on the stove in the morning and then let them cook while I do housework or study. After the beans are fully cooked, add thinly sliced onion and minced garlic, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes if you want some spice. Also add some veggie bouillon. I use my homemade vegetable bouillon.

Let simmer for another 10-15 minutes, or until onion and garlic are cooked. Taste it and add salt if necessary.

At this point you are basically finished, so you can eat it just like it is, or add some toppings. I usually like to drizzle about 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil in my soup bowl, then add some Parmesan cheese and black pepper. There are also other variations you can do: for example, you can add a little milk for a creamy version. If I have leftover baguette or stale bread, I cut it into cubes and put them in my bowl, then pour the soup over them. You could also add some other veggies if you wanted. I think leafy greens would be good, like spinach.

White Bean Chili

white chiliThis chili is great in the winter. In Japan, beans can be hard to find, but you can buy them at import stores, or online. This recipe is adapted from here.

Ingredients
450g (1 lb) chicken breast
1 onion
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp oil
2 cans white beans (or 4 cups cooked white beans)
400mL (14oz) chicken or vegetable stock
2 cans green chiles (In Japan, these are not easily available. Instead you can use fresh peppers, such as togarashi, or a small amount of dry pepper flakes.)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream (this amount can definitely be reduced)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Instructions

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion and chicken until the chicken loses its pink color.

Add the garlic powder, beans, stock, chiles, salt, cumin, oregano, pepper, and cayenne. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Add sour cream and cream, and reheat just until simmering.

Serve with tortilla chips, shredded cheese, avocado, tomato slices, etc.