25 January 2014

'BOHNSCHARLSUPPE' GREEN BEAN SOUP

In Austria we like to eat hot sweet dishes for lunch, such as 'Kaiserschmarren' [literally translated as 'emperor's nonsense' or 'emperor's mess', but in culinary terms meaning a thick sweet pancake laced with rum-drunken raisins, and torn into bite-size pieces - yum!]. 'Grießschmarren' [more 'semolina-raisin nonsense' baked in the oven :-) ], 'Palatschinken' [thin, large pan cakes], 'Topfenknödel' [quark dumplings], or 'Obstknödel' [fruit dumplings], just to name a few. These would be preceded or followed by a savoury soup. With a lot of 'Sweet-Tooths' in my family, it's always been a standard lunch combination at my parents' home. The soups can be 'Rindsuppe' [beef soup], with various garnishes, such as 'Leberknödel' [liver dumplings], 'Grießnockerl', [semolina dumplings), 'Fritatten' [thinly sliced 'Palatschinken'], 'Suppennudeln' [soup noodles] - oh the lovely  'Sternchensuppe' [soup with tiny star-shape noodles] or 'Buchstabensuppe' [alphabet noodle soup], that we were writing our names on the side of our plates with as girls - actually I still can't resist doing that now :-). Or the more hearty, thick varieties such as 'Gulaschsuppe' [Goulash soup], 'Gemuesesuppe' [vegetable soup], the list is long, hot and steamy. And of course, one of my favourites, 'Bohnscharlsuppe' [bean soup]. 

'Bohnscharln' is a very Austrian (maybe also South German/Bavarian) word for green beans. It comes from the word 'Bohnscheitel', or 'Bohnschote', both referring to the shape of the pod I guess. But there are many other names for these beans in Austria, such as 'Fisolen', or the lovely name 'Strankalan', as the 'Kärntner' (our Carinthian neighbours) like to call them. 
The soup can be made with a roux, but I prefer this version, where the flour is simply mixed with the sour cream and incorporated in the soup at the end to bind it. The sour cream lends a creamy texture with just the right level of acidity. Make sure to add plenty of cumin as it really brings out the flavour. Comforting, tasty and soul-warming, what can you ask more of a soup?

Recipe source: my mum's (typical Austrian recipe, original source unknown)
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Makes app. 6-8 Portions
(Quite a big quantity, but the soup gets better as it infuses, so I tend to make a large pot to keep some also for the next day.)

750g green beans (string beans), clean and cut into 1 cm pieces   
app. 500g potatoes, peel and cut into 1 cm cubes
1 - 1½ tsp cumin
½ to 1 Tbsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2l water
5 Tbsp = 75ml sour cream
4 Tbsp flour
bunch of parsley, roughly chopped

Wash the beans, cut off the tops and tails. You can do this by lining up the beans at a right angle against the edge of a large knife; cut across all tops at once, then flip them around, line up again and cut the other ends. This method is fast and great if you are under time pressure but I find that I tends to cut off too much of the ends, so I prefer to cut mine one-by one. Once you get a rhythm, it's actually quite fast. Also, this way, as you cut off the ends you feel if there is a tough piece of string that you can pull off along the bean). Cut the beans into app. 1 cm pieces and put them into a large saucepan. 
Peel the potatoes, placing them into a bowl of cold water as you go along to prevent them from discolouring, then cut them into app. 1 cm cubes and add them to the beans. Season with cumin, salt and pepper, then add 2l cold water. The beans should be covered well.
Bring to the boil, removing any surface scum rising to the top with a large spoon. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the beans and potatoes are soft, app. 10-15 minutes, but not so they fall apart. When the beans and potatoes are almost done, put the sour cream into a small bowl. Add the flour and whisk very well into a smooth paste, beating out any lumps. At the end, add a little cold water, and again stir well, so that the mixture has a more runny consistency. When the beans and potatoes are soft, pour the sour cream mixture into the soup whisking vigorously to avoid any lumps from forming. Bring the soup back to a boil, stirring or whisking constantly to remove any lumps that may form. 
Keep boiling the soup for a couple of minutes until nicely thickened and the raw flour taste has been cooked out. Season with more salt, cumin or pepper if necessary, then add the chopped parsley. For left-overs: place a ladle under the soup pot so that air can circulate underneath which helps the soup to cool faster. Once completely cold, cover and store in the fridge. The soup will keep for a couple of days. 


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'BOHNSCHARLSUPPE' GREEN BEAN SOUP




Makes app. 6-8 Portions

750g green beans (string beans), clean and cut into 1 cm pieces   

app. 500g potatoes, peel and cut into 1 cm cubes
1 - 1½ tsp cumin
½ to 1 Tbsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2l water
5 Tbsp = 75ml sour cream
4 Tbsp flour
bunch of parsley, roughly chopped

Wash the beans and cut off the tops and tails. Cut them into app. 1 cm pieces and put them into a large saucepan. Peel the potatoes, placing them into a bowl of cold water as you go along to prevent them from discolouring, then cut them into app. 1 cm cubes and add them to the beans. Season with cumin, salt and pepper, then add 2l cold water. The beans should be covered well. Bring to the boil, removing any surface scum rising to the top with a large spoon. Then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the beans and potatoes are soft, app. 10-15 minutes, but not too long so they fall apart. When the beans and potatoes are almost done, put the sour cream into a small bowl. Add the flour and whisk very well into a smooth paste, beating out any lumps. At the end, add a little cold water, and again stir well, so that the mixture has a more runny consistency. When the beans and potatoes are soft, pour the sour cream mixture into the soup whisking vigorously to avoid any lumps from forming. Bring the soup back to a boil, stirring or whisking well to remove any lumps that may form. Boil the soup for a couple of minutes until nicely thickened and the raw flour taste has been cooked out. Season with more salt, cumin or pepper if necessary, then add the chopped parsley. For left-overs: place a ladle under the soup pot so that air can circulate underneath which helps the soup to cool faster. Once completely cold, cover and store in the fridge. The soup will keep for a couple of days. 
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