To a digestive tract out of practice, beans should be added back with care. A scorching summer made bean-rich meals redundant this year. Little in my garden survived the appalling heat. The tomatoes, though, they loved it, dropping shocking amounts of sad leaves yet still managing to produce what I can proudly refer to as a crop. Imagine being undeterred by consecutive 46 degree days? That’s a plant built for survival. Bush beans however, shriveled before the first breath of real heat hit. By the time the hot winds arrived, they’d long since keeled over and expired. Can’t blame them. I knew how they felt.
Yes. A slow, gentle build toward wind-resistance is what’s required, particularly with the prospect of a new bag of chickpeas and another of tiny black lentils to cook in the cooler months ahead. Well-soaked, well-tended, soft legumes make for an easier digestive ride in autumn, so something light, say, a soup, is ideal. Deborah Madison’s gorgeous recipe is somewhat like a Japanese minestrone, should such a beast exist – aduki beans (highly prized for their digestibility) miso, mirin and sesame oil, all simmered in a European way with bay leaves and carrots and celery. Herbal, healing and satisfying in the way that bean-y things often are, but light on the tastebuds and, thankfully, forgiving on the body.
Millet and sesame balls – small as marbles - add something to the presentation, much as a garlicky crouton might to its Italian friend. In their place, I’d welcome some proper soba noodles as a Japanese nod to the pasta in minestrone. Snapped into lengths, cooked and stirred through at the final stage, they would add some of that bulk and textural interest that blokes seem to require in order to accept that yes, a bowl of soup is the entire evening meal.
Or is that just my blokes?
Aduki and celery leaf soup feeds 4-6
From Deborah Madison's soup book. You’ll want an entire head of celery here, as you’re attempting to balance the sweetness of aduki with the assertive, herbal flavour of celery leaves. A mixture of the darker outer and pale inner leaves is ideal, but flat-leaf parsley is a good substitute if yours look neither edible nor enticing. Soak the beans before you do anything – even a short soak will help them swell nicely. Even better the next day.
1 cup of aduki beans, soaked for a couple of hours, then drained
Toasted sesame oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons of mirin
2 long, thick slices of ginger
Handful of celery or parsley leaves
2 tablespoons of white miso
Warm 1 tablespoon of oil in a wide saucepan. Add the onion, carrot, celery stalks and bay leaves and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add the mirin, let it slowly evaporate then add the beans, ginger and 1½ litres (6 cups) of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a burble and cover. Simmer in this way for 1 hour.
Lift the lid, add a little salt, pop the lid back on and simmer until the beans crush easily.
Discard the bay and ginger. Take a few ladles of beans and puree them with the miso. Return the puree to the soup, throw in the celery leaves and warm through. Serve with a few millet and sesame balls (below) bobbing about in each bowl, adding extra drops of sesame oil if you like the flavour.
Millet and sesame balls
These can (and probably, for sanity’s sake, should) be made well in advance.
1/3 cup of millet
4 tablespoons of sesame seeds
Toast the millet in a dry frying pan over a high heat, tossing constantly. The moment you hear the millet ‘pop’, remove from the heat and rinse well. Drain (a tricky business - millet is teeny tiny) and place in a small saucepan. Pour over 1 cup of water, add a little salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed.
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan and cool on a plate. When the millet is cooked, beat in the toasted seeds and, using wet hands, form the mixture into marble-sized balls, adding a little tahini if yours won’t adhere.
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