One of the great things about dried beans is that they’re always in your pantry, ready to use. And while it’s never wrong to cook any bean at any time of year, I just think kidney beans and aduki beans (sometimes spelled azuki) go especially well with winter squash, sweet potatoes, and root vegetables which are so much in season now. A dish I love to make in the autumn is roasted chunks of kabocha, red kuri or butternut squash, mixed with tender, sweet cooked aduki beans. Everybody seems to like it, and this soup is really a variation on that theme.
If you’re not familiar with aduki beans, look for them in Asian stores and well-stocked natural food stores. They’re a favorite bean in East Asia, especially in Japan where they’re often sweetened, mashed and used as a filling in pastries, and even as a topping for ice cream. I read that Pepsi Japan released an aduki-flavored Pepsi product a few years back , but I have no idea if was a hit or not! I do wonder if adukis aren’t prized as much for their red color, the color of celebration and good fortune in East Asia, as they are for their mellow, sweet flavor. They’re an easy bean to like, especially with their nutritional profile of being good sources of protein, iron, magnesium, potassium and folic acid. So, try your hand at this soup, it’s easy to make, warming and hearty enough to be a main course. If you do try it, leave a comment telling us how you liked it. Recipe after the jump…
ADUKI BEAN AND GARNET YAM POTAGE
Aduki beans are well worth searching out, but if you can’t find them, kidney beans are a very acceptable substitute.
Serves 5-6 as a first course, 3-4 as a main course.
1 cup aduki beans, picked over and washed (soaked over night, preferably, in 4 cups water)
a 2-inch piece of kombu (sea vegetable)
5-6 small dried shiitake mushrooms
1-2 teaspoons canola oil or oil of choice
1 medium onion, peeled and diced small
1 medium carrot, diced small
1 medium/large (14-16 ounces) garnet yam (sometimes called garnet sweet potato), peeled and diced small
a 1 1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1-2 cloves garlic (optional), peeled and minced
pinch of salt
water or vegetable stock, as needed
1 teaspoon soy sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon mirin (optional)
1 tablespoon mellow white or yellow miso, or to taste
1 teaspoon red or brown miso, or to taste
1 or 2 green onions, washed, trimmed and sliced thin into little rounds
1. Pick over and wash the aduki beans. Cover with 4 cups water and soak over night. If you don’t feel like doing this, it’s o.k., just allow more cooking time. If you’ve soaked the beans, drain and go to step 2.
2. Put the beans in a cooking pot and add 4 cups water, the kombu and shiitake mushrooms. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to a mild simmer. Simmer for 50 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on whether the beans were soaked and how dry they were.
3. While the beans are simmering, prep the other ingredients.
4. Heat a roomy, thick-bottomed soup pot. Add in this order: a little splash of oil, onions, ginger, garlic, carrots, sweet potatoes and a pinch of salt. Sauté 5-6 minutes, then add 6 cups water or vegetable stock, a teaspoon of soy sauce and a tablespoon of mirin. Simmer about 30 minutes or until the veggies are tender and melting into the broth.
5. Keep an eye on the beans, adding more water if necessary (they should always be covered with water). Give them plenty of cooking time. It seems to me that undercooked beans are not as digestible as those which are well cooked.
6. When the beans are done, use a tongs to pull out the shiitake mushrooms, cut off the shiitake steams and discard, and slice the mushrooms thin. Add the shiitakes and cooked beans to the veggies in the soup pot. Add more water or stock if necessary to produce a soup of the consistency you prefer.
7. Season with miso and umeboshi vinegar. The quantities I give are suggestions. Season to your taste. You can also add a little more soy sauce and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice if you like (especially if you don’t have umeboshi vinegar).
8. Serve in bowls, garnished amply with green onions. Don’t skip the green onions, their sharp, fresh green flavor and color is a welcome contrast to the sweet, soft soup.
Variation: substitute an equal quantity of any peeled and diced winter squash for the sweet potatoes.