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Red bean & rum soup

Something barely similar and much too bland appeared in an issue of Bon Appetit dedicated to the Caribbean in May of 2006. The Editor has boosted the britishfoodinamerica version with island seasonings and a jolt of cilantro. It somehow manages to taste simultaneously hearty, light and brisk. About six starters.

-3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

-2 fat cloves garlic, smashed and minced

rum-label-Freddy.jpg-a peeled and chopped sweet onion

-4 scallions, white part chopped, green tops minced

-heaped ¼ teaspoon powdered bay

-heaped ¼ teaspoon or more cayenne

-heaped ½ teaspoon ground cumin

-heaped ¼ teaspoon ground ginger

-heaped ¼ teaspoon white pepper

-heaped teaspoon dried thyme

-1 teaspoon good coarse salt

-4 Tablespoons good dark rum

-2/3 cup coconut milk (canned is fine)

-1 cup pork (preferred) or chicken stock (which also works well)

-2 cans dark red kidney beans

-1 Tablespoon Outerbridge’s Sherry rum peppers sauce

-minced fresh cilantro

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy stockpot, add the garlic, onion, scallion whites, cayenne, cumin, ginger, white pepper, thyme and salt, and cook until the onion softens. Do not let it brown.
  2. Pour the rum over the onion mixture, increase the heat to high and reduce the rum to a syrupy texture.
  3. Add the coconut milk and stock, and return the soup to a boil.
  4. Dump the beans into the pot, bring it back to a boil and then reduce the heat to the barest simmer.
  5. Stir the Outerbridge into the soup and let it simmer for about 40 minutes, no more.
  6. Puree the soup with an immersion blender and serve it hot topped with the scallion greens and cilantro.


- Avid readers of britishfoodinamerica will note that the Editor has used an uncharacteristically light hand with the herb and spice, if not the booze, in this recipe. More spice would miss the delicate point counterpoint of the rum, beans and coconut. Yes Virginia, red beans can make for delicate food.

- Do not use a supersweet rum like a blackstrap here. The Editor uses Coruba, Mount Gay Old, which is deeper in color and tone than the distiller’s good flagship Eclipse, or Wood’s Navy.

- You could use light red beans instead. The flavor will not suffer but the appearance of the soup will be ghastly.

- If you have no powdered bay, toss a few leaves into the pot instead, but do remember to fish them out before you puree the soup at Step 6.

- As careful readers also know, we like Maldon salt.

- If you cannot get the Outerbridge (a terrible pity), then substitute a Tablespoon of fino or dry amontillado Sherry and some (very) hot sauce.

- Purists and pedants will want to use dried beans soaked overnight, and will need to cook the soup for a solid pair of hours. It will lose its delicacy.

- The Editor flouts conventional wisdom and neglects to rinse her canned beans. The entire can, salty fluid and all, go straight to the pot. It is, really, better this way.

- Especially if you are lucky enough to have some pork stock, try substituting lard for some or all of the butter. Some New Orleans restaurants post signs in the window that read “WE USE LARD.” It is a boast not a warning.