Saturday, February 18, 2017

Navy Bean and Smoked Sausage Soup

After seven days of snow storms and between power outages, I found the time to cook up a batch of hearty bean soup in the Instant Pot. Instant Pot instructions for dried beans state; "Dried beans double in volume and weight after soaking or cooking. To avoid overflow, please do not fill the inner pot more than half  capacity to allow for expansion." This recipe filled the inner pot to above the half mark but the beans had been soaked overnight and had already doubled in volume... everything went fine. There is another advantage to soaking the beans for at least eight hours; it speeds up the cooking process... and oh yes, it also reduces their gassy, 'tooting' effect! If you don't have a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, not to worry, this recipe can also be made on the stove top but the beans will take a bit longer to cook.

NAVY BEAN SOUP WITH SMOKED FARMER'S SAUSAGE           Yield: 8-10 servings
A hearty soup with added smoke flavor from the sausage and smoked paprika.
1-1/2 cups dry navy beans, soak over night
Fast, filling, bean soup in the Instant Pot
1 Tbsp. bacon fat or oil 
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery 
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. smoked Farmer's Sausage, sliced
1/2 tsp. Pimentón, smoked paprika
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce 
2 large bay leaves, each broken into 3-4 pieces
2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. dried sweet marjoram leaves
1-2 tsp. sea salt 
     OR 2 Tbsp. chicken soup base powder 
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
7-8 cups flavorful chicken stock
2 Tbsp. roughly minced parsley, for garnish

Drain the soaking liquid from the beans, pick through and remove any stones or foreign matter. Rinse beans and set aside. Heat bacon fat in the inner stainless steel pot with Instant Pot 'Saute' function. Add onions, carrot and celery; saute until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic, sausage, Pimentón, Worcestershire, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, marjoram, salt and pepper; stir and saute for a few minutes. Add the stock and beans, stir well.
Lock the lid in place, position the steam release to 'Sealing' and set the Instant Pot on high for 20-30 minutes. When the time is up, allow the pressure to come down naturally, about another 30 minutes.
When the steam pin drops, carefully remove the lid, tilting away from you. Remove the bay leaf and skim off any excess fat. You can mash some of the beans with a potato masher or just keep the soup as is. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot with a sprinkle of minced parsley. 

Beat the winter blues with a steaming bowl of soup!
A fast, Instant Pot recipe for the family or freezer... great to take the chill off our unusual winter weather!

Till next time, stay warm and dry... Bon Appétit!

Recipe and photos by Sally Rae  

Friday, February 10, 2017

Growing Sweet Potatoes

Last fall I discussed a DIY version of starting your own sweet potato slips in; 'Sweet Potatoes ~ from Slips to Harvest'...  there are several ways to start the sprouts; in soil or water. I have heard using soil produces more sturdy, vigorous slips, so I am starting some with each method. A week after these photos, I found the sprouts growing faster in the water version rather than soil. However, in the soil, roots were growing alongside the sprouts, so I will monitor their progress and see how my comparison pans out.

Already sprouting in the kitchen
I bought three, orange flesh sweet potatoes last November. I stored these potatoes in the kitchen, above the stove on a turret for good air circulation. The kitchen is well lit with a temperature of 18-21C (65-70F.) The beginning of February, I planted two in soil, kept continuously warm and moist, and cut another in half, suspended with skewers in jars of water. (Be sure to rinse the jars and replace the water when it becomes cloudy.) The potatoes already had small sprouts, so now I will wait until the sprouts are 2-3 inches and vigorous. Then pull the sprouts off of the sweet potato and put into water until there are lots of roots. At this point, transplant them to starter pots with soil. When the slips are 6-12 inches tall you can plant them outdoors providing there is no danger of frost or move them to a greenhouse."
Cut in half in water ~ In moist, warm potting soil
When it is warm enough outside, transplant the slips 12-18 inches apart in tilled, fertile, well-drained soil. Plant deep enough to cover the root and about 1/2 inch of the stem. They are a vine, so provide some type of structure for them to climb and do not remove any of the foliage or vine as it grows. Water with a starter solution of fertilizer high in phosphorous, then water generously for a few days to be sure the plants root well. Water regularly after that, provide good drainage and don't let them sit in water. Deep watering in hot, dry periods will help increase yields. However, if you are planning to store some of the potatoes don't give them extra water late in the season. Weed occasionally but do not prune the vines, they should be vigorous. Harvest 3-4 months after planting when the leaves begin to turn yellow.

In the meantime, Denman Island has been hit with a week long, winter storm of unusual, heavy snowfall and power outages. It has been difficult to get computer time and cooking some days was either on the wood stove or outdoor propane BBQ. The temperature is rising above freezing and the snow has turned to rain. It will take us a day or so to dig out of this one!!
Day two of seven... and still snowing!

Till next time... Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae