The New Convivialist

Category: jillian’s recipes

pancake day


In honor of Shrove Tuesday, known in some parts of this world as, yes, Pancake Day, I present you with this fine recipe for a baked apple pancake. Sometimes referred to as a ‘Dutch Pancake’, the trick to this pleasantly puffed show-stopper is the dual treatment of the stovetop and oven. For this I like to use a very special pan from the Netherton Foundry, an English company I got to know a couple years ago, whose owners Neil and Sue actually first told me about the tradition of Pancake Day in the UK.

The vision of a big baked pancake is actually the reason I bought the 10” spun iron pan by Netherton in the first place. Although frittata is also nice. I dreamed of lightly caramelizing apples in butter and sugar on the stovetop, only to pour the batter over top and flip the whole pan lightly into the oven without care or fuss. And with spun iron material, as opposed to massive cast iron, this ‘flipping’ I speak of really is no hyperbole. Spun iron is a far lighter-weight material than cast; it won’t take four hands to haul it out of a hot oven. I can only recommend it. Made in England and from local materials only, you don’t have to worry about chemical coatings and the like. And the gorgeous wooden handle of local oak and brass fittings can simply be unscrewed (or left unscrewed) if you are doing a lot of stovetop to oven maneuverings.

Pancake Day stems, like just about everything of European religious origin, from Paganism. This year its date falls rather early, but originally it would have marked the start of Spring, fighting a victorious battle against the dark forces of Winter. Thus, a pancake would be baked to represent the sun and the warmth it begins to emit around this time of year. As I sit here drinking an Earl Grey tea (pure coincidence: something I almost NEVER do) I can’t help but feeling delightfully British on this sunny Pancake Tuesday.


Recipe: Baked Apple Pancake

2 eggs

½ cup flour

½ cup milk

½ tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Pinch of salt

1 apple, thinly sliced

1 tsp cinnammon

4 tablespoons butter, divided

2 tsp sugar, divided

sprinkling of powdered sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. In a mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the flour, milk, vanilla, salt and nutmeg and lightly beat until blended but still slightly lumpy.
  2. Melt 1 tbsp of the butter in a 10-inch oven-proof skillet (preferably spun iron) over medium heat. Add the sliced apples and cook down a bit, adding the sugar and cinnamon after a couple of minutes. When the apples are slightly caramelized and very soft, turn up the heat to med-high, add the rest of the butter and let foam.
  3. When the butter is very hot but not brown, pour in the batter. Bake in the oven until the pancake is billowing on the edges and golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  4. Working quickly, remove the pan from the oven and, using a fine-meshed sieve, sprinkle with the powdered sugar.

Serves 2 to 4



A Better Potato Salad (mayonnaise-free)


Both potato salad and egg salad, in their traditional senses, have always left me cold. Potato salad recalls a sweltering August afternoon, an enormous Tupperware container of gooey white mass, hanging out somewhere between the gas grill and the Dr. Pepper. And egg salad, even worse: grade school lunch. Smushed between two slices of white bread, mummified in plastic wrap, the sickening smell divulged all at once, as the thermo-bag in which it has been fermenting for five hours is unzipped. Read the rest of this entry »

Flourless Chocolate Cake – an original recipe

convivialist-food-blog-flourless-chocolate-cake-recipe 1

Happy Valentine’s Day. And all the more happy because the holiday doesn’t knock you over the side of your head here in Germany. But my skepticism towards this Hallmark Holiday doesn’t necessarily preclude partaking in Valentine’s-related things that I actually do like, such as cut flowers and flourless chocolate cake. Especially flourless chocolate cake.

We are usually under the presumption that such an endeavor as baking a flourless chocolate cake is a signifier of a special occasion. Yes, the rich, dense, deeply chocolatey cake or torte is one that impresses a guest or a lover, but it also need not be complicated to make. In fact, this particular flourless chocolate cake comes together so easily you don’t have to wait for the next 14th of February to make it. Why not the 18th of March? Or the 4th of August? Or tomorrow?

Now, this cake is not of the species of flourless chocolate ‘bomb’ that sort of crusts on top, the kind that can be gently tapped open with a spoon to reveal a chocolate lava flow. Those are great. But ours is different. I liken it more to a steamed, creamy texture, probably due to the inclusion of the coconut milk. The texture was unexpected ­-we just threw in the coconut milk because we had some leftover in the fridge- but nevertheless welcome and comforting.

It was both in an effort to save money and because we have both been under the weather for the past week that Paul and I stayed in last night. To be perfectly honest, though, as soon as the mere mention of baking a flourless chocolate cake appeared on the table at, oh, around 6 pm and my chocoholic boyfriend dashed out the door to pick up some chocolate reserves, you couldn’t have paid me to go out to the finest restaurant in town.  We even found an appropriate film to watch while eating our two slices of cake each (my god, to write that- are we already that much of an old married couple?) – Spinning Plates – a documentary featuring three very different restaurants in the US and the specific challenges they face. Fascinating, concise and highly recommended!


Recipe: Flourless chocolate cake with coconut milk

convivialist-food-blog-flourless-chocolate-cake-recipe 2 

200 grams dark chocolate, around 50% cacao content, chopped

125 grams butter, cut into small pieces

100 grams coconut milk

four eggs, separated

100 grams sugar (ideally raw sugar)

1 tsp vanilla extract

60 grams unsweetened cacao powder


1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (350°F) and grease a 25 cm (10”) spring-form pan.

2. Place the chopped chocolate and butter in a double boiler and melt slightly over medium heat. When it’s about half melted, add the coconut milk and continue stirring until everything is smooth, but be careful not to overheat. Remove from heat. 

3. Meanwhile, separate the four eggs into two small bowls. This is where it comes in handy to have two preparing the cake together. One person can beat the egg whites, either by hand with a whisk or with an electric beater, until frothy and slightly stiff. The other can stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture, followed by beating in the egg yolks, one at a time, until completely incorporated.

4. If the bowl of your chocolate mixture has grown too small, transfer to a larger one. Slowly stir in the cacao powder until incorporated. Gently fold in the egg whites until incorporated. Pour batter into the prepared spring-form pan and set in the center rack of the oven. Check after 25 minutes by inserting a toothpick in the center. As soon as it comes out clean, remove from the oven (not overcooking is the key here!) and let cool on a rack.

5. When completely cool, remove from pan and serve, with some whipped cream if desired. The next day, the flavors and textures are even richer.



Looking Forward and Glancing Back: A Cocktail for the New Year

ingredients whiskey

Now that 2013 has faded away and with it all the requisite year-in-reviews for restaurants (here, here and here) and pop music (here), 2014 has taken the stage with lists of its own: Oscar-hopeful releases and politico-cultural predictions by just about anyone who thinks you’ll listen.

I myself will not make any recaps or predictions other than a libationary one: if 2013 was the year of the Manhattan (cocktail), then let 2014 be the year of the Big Apple.

The Big Apple is a little something I invented for the dark days of winter. It has the whisky and angostura punch of a Manhattan, but with an additional soothing element of hot-spiced apple juice. I do like a good Hot Toddy in the cold months, but sometimes I find it lackluster without loads of honey or sweetener. The Big Apple, on the other hand, won’t disappoint with its full and spicy flavors that match perfectly to bourbon whiskey.

Admittedly, I started drinking this cocktail before we rounded the corner into 2014. It was just too perfect for that period between Christmas and the New Year. While I think it is best suited as an after-dinner drink or nightcap, why not serve it up at a January brunch? It is mildly refreshing, given the apple juice, thus suited for heftier dishes like eggs, potatoes and bacon. It’s also easy to make for a group. Just slow-heat a big ol’ pot of apple juice and simmer with spices for as long as you like. Therefore your mix is ready-made– just add the alcohol and go. (A fair warning, though: during the day I think a couple of these would sufficiently knock you out until nightfall.)

Happy New Year!

Recipe: Big Apple hot cocktail

For the hot-spiced apple juice:

1 liter apple juice or apple cider*

2 cinnamon sticks

a large pinch of whole cloves

a slice of fresh ginger

-Simmer this mixture in a saucepan or pot over very low heat for at least 20 minutes, longer if you like, for a spicier flavor.

For the cocktail:

Hot-spiced apple juice

1.5 oz or 44 mL (1 shot) bourbon whisky

1 dash Angostura bitters

cinnamon stick

-Ladle some hot spiced apple juice into a small mug. Pour in the whisky and dash of Angostura bitters. Stir and serve with a cinnamon stick as garnish.

*If you are in the US, I would highly suggest using apple cider for this drink. In most countries in Europe, though, if you say apple cider, it means the alcoholic kind. The closest we have to what you want in Germany would be naturtrüber Apfelsaft, basically an unfiltered apple juice. Using this just adds to the overall spiciness and depth of the drink.



A between weathers cake

easter cake

Despite Sunday’s Easter feast, the weekend in general had a decidedly un-Easter feel. One may attribute this to the hard fact that every now and then, glancing out the window, blizzard-like conditions were shockingly present. I know, I know, I know… everyone is tired of complaining about the weather. But for me, it wasn’t even the weather in itself. The winter-is-supposed-to-be-over-depression really sunk in on Saturday’s visit to Markthalle Neun to scout out something vaguely Spring-like for our Easter meal. After stand upon stand of bottom of the barrel beets and a scrum of carrots and potatoes, I headed to the supermarket and settled on a couple of small bulbs of fennel grown in Italy.

Fennel just seems like it could fit to any time of the year. Fresh, herbaceous and light, it is appropriate raw in summer salads but can also be combined with enhancers like cream or butter for a wintery meal. What about in something sweet? Fennel in desserts I had not before experimented with, but when I stumbled across a recipe for fennel buttermilk cake in an old issue of Gourmet, I thought: perfect. It deceived nothing of seasonality – it felt appropriate for a holiday that is supposed to celebrate Spring, but did not feel anything of the sort. A chameleonic cake, if you will.

The preparation of the candied fennel is a bit time-consuming, but aside from that first step, the cake comes together quite easily. It can also be decorative, depending on how beautifully you arrange the fennel in the bottom of the cake pan (mine=not so beautifully) making it impressive for dinner parties or holidays.

I hope my next recipe will be with something that betrays the first signs of spring (can you tell I am dreaming of rhubarb?!), but in the meantime be content with the temperature-defying abilities of this fennel cake.

Recipe: Fennel Lemon Buttermilk Cake

Candied Fennel:

  • 2 small bulbs fennel
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 strips lemon zest, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • crushed edible rose petals (optional)
  1. Lightly butter pan (I used springform) and line bottom and side with parchment paper. Lightly butter paper.
  2. Cut fennel bulbs lengthwise with slicer into enough 1/4-inch-thick slices to cover bottom of cake pan.
  3. Cover fennel with cold water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil. Drain fennel and set aside. Add sugar, water (3/4 cup), zest, and fennel seeds to saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Add fennel slices and very gently simmer until tender and translucent and liquid is syrupy, about 40 minutes. Lift fennel slices out with a fork and arrange decoratively in bottom of cake pan. Boil syrup to reduce to about 1/3 cup liquid. Cool syrup slightly, then pour over fennel, seeds and lemon strips and all.
  4. Preheat oven to 350ºF (170°C) with rack in middle
  5. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in zest.
  7. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and mixing until just combined. Gently spoon batter over topping, spreading evenly.
  8. Bake until cake is golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan 15 minutes, then invert onto a plate and continue to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  9. Garnish with crushed rose petals, if desired.


recipe caramelized fennel

recipe buttermilk cake fennel
recipe fennel cake

A Winter’s Cake

blood orange polenta cake

I promise it is not the winter blues that have kept me from posting for the past couple weeks. Though I have a few visiting kitchen opportunities in the works, I will pause for a moment and share with you one of my personal favorite recipes, which I assure you remedies anything that may be going on outside. Wind chill, be gone!

With its heavy reliance on citrus, namely blood oranges, this cake recalls a Floridian grove or perhaps a Southern Italian Sunday afternoon much more than it does a snowy cityscape. But with an influx of imported citrus to Northern Europe during January and February, adding a bright note to your cooking seems to be a sensible, not to mention cheery, solution to the abundance.

This is a classic upside down cake. The first layer is a caramel, which is a poured into the bottom of a spring-form pan and left to harden, followed by a layer of tightly packed sliced blood oranges, and lastly the cake batter. The miraculous thing that happens is that the caramel and the orange layers fuse together during baking, and when the thing is removed from the oven and flipped, the sweet/sour medley drips down, infusing the entire cake. I also particularly like the crumbly nature of the cake itself. This is due to the uncooked polenta and ground almonds added to the batter. And if that’s not enough for you, the orange marmalade glaze adds the finishing touch in order to slightly counter-act the rich flavor of the caramel (and to make it look prettier).

The recipe is not my own. I found it a few years back in Gourmet magazine, which itself ‘borrowed’ it from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. Maybe it was a coincidence that this cake just popped into my head today, but I suppose I already had Israeli-born British chef Yotam Ottolenghi on my mind after reading a fascinating New Yorker feature on him during a long train ride last week. Nevertheless, I have followed trend and also slightly adapted the recipe, most notably switching out regular navel oranges for blood oranges. If you want, you can alternatively use a combination of blood and navel oranges to play with the colors of the finished cake, since there will be a subtle difference, even after baking.

Recipe: Blood Orange Polenta Upside Down Cake


Caramel Orange Layer

1/2 cup superfine granulated sugar

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits

2 – 3 blood oranges, depending on size


1 3/4 sticks (about 200 grams) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup superfine granulated sugar

3 large eggs

zest from one orange

½ orange, juiced

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups ground almonds (7 oz)

2/3 cup quick-cooking polenta


1/4 cup orange marmalade

1 tablespoon water

1. Preheat oven to 350°F or 175°C with rack in middle. Lightly butter a 9-inch round cake pan, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper and side with a strip of parchment.

2. Make the caramel layer:

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals from side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil, without stirring, swirling pan occasionally so caramel colors evenly, until dark amber. Keep a close eye on it so that it does not burn.

Remove from heat and add butter, swirling pan until incorporated, then carefully but quickly pour caramel into cake pan, tilting it to coat evenly.

3. Peel blood oranges including white pith with a paring knife. Cut oranges crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Remove any seeds and arrange slices in 1 layer over caramel.

4. Make cake:

Beat butter with sugar using an electric mixer until just combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Zest orange and juice one half of it. Mix in orange juice and reserved zest.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer at low speed, mix almonds, polenta, and flour mixture into egg mixture until just combined.

Spread batter evenly over oranges (preferably with an offset spatula).

5. Place in oven and bake until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Invert cake onto a cake plate and discard parchment.

6. Glaze cake:

Heat marmalade with water in a small saucepan until melted. Strain through a sieve into a small bowl. Brush top of cake with some of glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

recipe- blood orange polenta upside down cake









A recipe to give (me) thanks for

Last year Thanksgiving in Berlin came and went. I didn’t celebrate it. This year I am thankful for many things, but among them to have made some spirited American friends who invited me to a heartfelt, football-inclusive, early Thanksgiving dinner last weekend. I don’t want to say it was authentic, because that paints it as a mere staging, a going through the motions, of tradition. Because it was more than that. It was the real thing. More than one of us voiced a palpable excitement and anticipation for the day, equating it with the way Christmas Eve felt as a child. I think that we all in some small way re-discovered what the holiday was about. Ok, now cue the cheesy music.

I like to think I am a fairly modest person. But when the topic of apple pie comes around, I have absolutely no problem climbing up to the highest possible pedestal, placing a wreath of laurel on my head and proclaiming to lands far and near that I have, incontestably, the best recipe known to man.

The problem is that I honestly have no idea where this recipe came from. You see, it has been in the “family” for years. Well, eight years, to be exact. It was the fall of our senior year of college and Kate, my good friend and partner-in-culinary-crime, and I got ourselves into a somewhat disturbing pattern of apple pie baking. In retrospect, it surely had a lot to do with scholarly stress and even more to do with procrastination. We relished the fact that we could cast all responsibilities, studying and studio hours aside and just… bake pie. It could all be so simple! We even had a special accent that we would use when baking the pies– somewhere between Georgia hillbilly and that mid-Atlantic drawl popular with actors from the 50s. But somehow, that little apple pie recipe of unknown origin was utter perfection and became legendary.

I have divulged our apple pie recipe to a few friends since that baking frenzy eight years ago. And now I will pass it along to you. Try it out (for Thanksgiving, if you like) while the apples are still at their peak. And give thanks to me.

apple pie recipe for thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Recipe – apple pie


3 cups (375 grams) flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 cup (two American sticks / one European package) cold butter cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4-6 tablespoons cold milk


1 cup (200 grams) plus 1 tablespoon sugar

4 tablespoons cornstarch (or flour)

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

dash of salt

1 tablespoon water

splash of lemon juice

around 6 medium apples (mix of sweet and sour varieties is best)


1. Make the dough for the crust:  Sift dry ingredients.  Cut all the butter, minus one tablespoon, into dry ingredients. Sprinkle in vegetable oil, then milk, one tablespoon at a time, and mix after each addition. You will know the dough is the right consistency when it comes together in a ball but is not too sticky to handle. When combined, form a ball with the dough and cut in half. Wrap each half with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about one hour.

2. Preheat the oven.

3. Peel and dice apples about 1/3-inch (almost one centimeter) thick. Toss in a bowl with a splash of lemon juice to keep them from browning.

4. Remove dough from the refrigerator and roll out one half for the bottom crust on a floured surface. Using the rolling pin, fold gently in half and transfer into a lightly buttered pie dish. The edges of the dough should hang over the sides of the dish a bit. Then roll out the top.

5. Mix filling: Sift dry ingredients. Mix well with chopped apples and water. Turn mixture into the dough-lined pan. Dot with little pieces of the remaining butter.

6. Cover the apples with the top round of dough and seal the edges by pinching them together.  Make tiny holes or slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Brush a bit of milk on the top of the pie and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar (and a bit more cinnamon, if you like).

Bake at 450° for 10 minutes, then at 350° for 40-50 minutes. (If you see the top is browning too quickly, make a little “tent” over the top of the pie with aluminum foil, covering lightly but continuing to bake.)




Savor Sweet Rosemary Shortbread

rosemary shortbread recipe

I have written already about Dritte Mitte, the Italian-style Aperitivo that Katharina, Til, Lorenzo, Frank and I host once per month. We love to talk about how much work it is. Oh, the hours we spend trolling the market for the best greens or searching for elusive cans of ginger beer that the cocktail-of-the-week would not be complete without. Not to mention the time spent in front of the stove, rolling polpette, elbow deep in frying oil. Yes, we complain, hopefully more to each other than to our guests, but when all is said and done, we do, though we would never say it out loud, love every minute. We all enjoy (understatement) eating and cooking, and the fact that we need to provide sustenance for some 80-100 people every four weeks keeps us on our toes, keeps us trying new recipes. Because if not, we would tire of it, simple as that.

This last week’s Aperitivo consisted of lots of fat. Maybe it’s the fault of the colder weather that is now descending on Berlin, but every new plate we brought out to the guests seemed more calorie-rich than the last. Shortbread, sweet and savory at once, was a major sub-genre under last week’s general theme of Fat. We baked two different types, one being Rosemary Shortbread, which is a long-standing favorite of mine.

I originally sourced the recipe from the NYTimes (Melissa Clark). Over the years, I have modified it slightly; this is pretty much as perfect as you can get when talking shortbread. Don’t be afraid of the massive amount of butter. It is what makes shortbread shortbread, after all. I think that without the addition of the fresh rosemary, the shortbread is still ok, but the herbaceous quality gives it an extra kick that also helps to cut the richness of the butter. A good dose of salt and sea salt makes it sweet and savory at the same time.

Sweet Savory Rosemary Shortbread Recipe

2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

10 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pinch sea salt

2 teaspoons honey (or even better, a citrusy syrup

1 cup (2 sticks, 225 g, one “pack”) unsalted cold butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

1. Heat oven to 325°F or 165°C (yes, low, as they must bake relatively slowly).

2. Whisk together flour, sugar, rosemary and salt.

3. Add butter, and honey (once, I replaced the honey with a lemon-flavored simple syrup that I had made for another purpose, and I found the result to be divine). Cut in with a pastry cutter, two knives or your hands (if you have a food processor, go ahead and use it) until mixture is the texture of fine crumbs.

4. Rub together/pulse in food processor a few more times until some crumbs start to come together, but don’t over-mix. Dough should not be smooth.

5. Lay parchment paper on the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch (20- or 23-cm)-square baking pan and press dough evenly into it. Prick dough all over with a fork.

6. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes for 9-inch pan, 45 to 50 minutes for 8-inch. Cool slightly. Cut into squares, bars or wedges while still warm.

Yield: One 8- or 9-inch shortbread.

rosemary shortbread

Frijoles Negros – Black Bean Soup

I regret to say this is not a visiting kitchen post. None of my Central American acquaintances have yet to step up and offer to divulge Grandma’s standby recipe for frijoles negros. Maybe that’s a sign that I need to simply ask, but now as the Autumn weather has officially descended on northern Europe, I find it just about time for a hearty soup, authentic or not. And mine, if I may say, is buenísima.

It wasn’t always so. I can remember clearly my first foray into cooking with dried black beans. I couldn’t have been more than 19 and, as I was prone to do as a teenager, got a strange fit of fancy to try something utterly new and foreign in the kitchen. More often than not when this would happen, I would wander blindly over to the stove and simply do what I thought was appropriate. Sometimes it worked. Usually it did not. Growing up, my family was not a bean-loving one, so I decided it was high time to take it upon myself to try to imitate a silky and savory black stew that I had no doubt eaten in some restaurant and had thought, how hard could that be? I recalled hearing somewhere that dried black beans took an incredibly long time to cook, so I thought… ok, like 45 minutes or so, boiled with salt. That should do it. That night I choked down a bowl of little rocks, thinking all the while that there must be something wrong with the bag of Goya beans I bought. Too old, yes that’s it.

Supposedly as we age, we learn that the best things in life require time and patience. This little tale of black beans is a prime example. Instant gratification is not something one encounters when presented with a bag of dried black beans. It certainly requires some waiting around and a bit of effort, but if you embrace this – maybe pretend you are a grandma preparing a huge pot for the family to last the entire week – the fruits of your labor can be splendid.

But even if you are a young person whose busy life does not necessarily allow for Mexican Grandma-like cooking schedules, making frijoles negros from scratch is not SO unrealistic. Just soak the beans before you go to bed to make them for lunch the next day, or in the morning before running out the door if you would rather a black bean soup for dinner. Sure, the cooking time itself is not short either, but when left with a colossal pot of black beans that will yield enough for a dinner party plus leftovers, or give a couple something hearty to eat for a whole week, it’s actually not so bad. Plus, it’s not just about the soup! The beans become thicker and the flavors continue to develop after a day in the refrigerator. Try them simply with white rice or maybe with toast, a slice of avocado and a soft fried egg on top for a quick interpretation of huevos rancheros.


Recipe – Black Bean Soup – Frijoles Negros

*note that this is a vegetarian black bean soup, but you can also add some chopped bacon for an extra kick of salty flavor.


500 grams black beans

1 small white onion, chopped

1 small red onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 small carrot

1 red bell pepper

1 serrano pepper, finely chopped

2 tsp toasted and ground cumin

3 TBSP olive oil

a few whole cloves

2 pinches sugar

sprinkling of red wine vinegar

sprinkling of soy sauce

juice from 1 lime

cilantro (fresh coriander)



1. Soak black beans for about 12 hours or overnight in plenty of water (they will get larger.

2.  Add 1 TBSP olive oil, the white onion, 2 cloves crushed garlic and a few whole cloves to beans, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and simmer for 1 hour, checking regularly and skimming the foam that forms on top.

3. Meanwhile, take some cumin seeds and toast them in a heavy skillet over low heat. Grind coarsely either with a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.

4. Make the sofrito: warm remaining 2 TBSP olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the red onion, carrot, remaining 1 clove of garlic (chopped), Serrano pepper and bell pepper, and sauté for about 5 minutes until soft. Add a sprinkling of red wine vinegar, ground cumin, black pepper and salt, and cook for 2 minutes more.

5. Add the sofrito to beans. Stir in a few splashes of red wine vinegar, soy sauce (yes, this is what I mean when I say it is not authentic) and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened and cooked through. Add sugar, more salt (black beans take a lot of salt), and more vinegar to taste.

6. As you are stirring, crush some of the beans into the bottom of pot or, with a hand blender, partially blend the soup to a consistency you like. Remove from heat and stir in juice from one lime. Add salt and pepper to taste.

7. Serve in a bowl with a spoon of sour cream on top and some finely chopped cilantro (fresh coriander) to brighten the taste.