Recipes for dark days


In an effort to practice better home economy, I have declared this the Winter of the Bean.

In the last few weeks I’ve experimented with baked beans and chili. Today, I made Bohnensuppe (Bean Soup) as per a simple recipe in my German Cookery book.

Slow cooking and short on ingredients, it’s my favourite kind of recipe: a one-pot stick-to-your-ribs comfort food that’s decently healthy and cheap to prepare. To my dismay, however, the finished product was also glunky-looking and… mauve. It looked remarkably like medical waste.

It reminded me of an east coast Irish Stew recipe I made when my mother-in-law was visiting. It was dead simple and insanely delicious but, sadly, looked indistinguishable from canned dog food.

I feel like this is something cookbooks could mention. Maybe editors could give these recipes their own section–something like, “When entertaining people who already know and love you” or “For low-light dining.”

I’ll still make them both, though, and pass the recipes along.


Lots of weight measurements in these recipes. In case you don’t have a scale, remember: A pint’s a pound the world around. (And a pint is 2 cups.)


½ lb dried legumes (soaked overnight)
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
a few strips of bacon

After soaking overnight, drain beans. Cover with 2 qts fresh water, salted, and cook until tender (2 hrs).

*The next part of the recipe confused me: It said “pat beans through a strainer.” I have no idea if this means drain them, or if it’s actually suggesting one mashes them “through” a strainer, which seems insane. I drained them.

Reserve cooking water.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter and add flour and 1 c of cooking water. Stir until smooth. Add to drained/strained beans. Chop bacon, fry lightly, and add to beans. (Since bacon is deadly now, or if you’re vegetarian, add a few drops of liquid smoke instead.) Season with garlic, if desired.

[I modified with: black pepper; a generous dash of Worcestershire; an onion, chopped and lightly sauteed with the bacon; enough stock to thin it out to my liking. Pro-tip: use white beans to avoid the weird pink colour.]


3 lbs loin or neck of mutton (Depending on what you have, substitute as you see fit.)
4 lbs of potatoes, pared and sliced
4 lrg onions, quartered
salt and pepper
1 pint water

Cut the meat into medium-sized peices and prepare the potatoes and onions. In a stew pan, place a layer of potatoes, then a layer of meat pieces and onions. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat until stew pan is full. Add the water and simmer gently for 2 hours, keeping the cover on until done. “Shake” occasionally to keep contents from sticking or burning.

Blindfold guests and serve. Hahaha


8 thoughts on “Recipes for dark days

  1. As a vegetarian, I am no stranger to the lowly legume. I love that you have that photo of Audrey Hepburn from Gigi as your header. At least, I think that’s what it is. Anyway, I cook a lot of lentils. I have taken to making breakfast porridge from red lentils as it is fast and easy and filling and delicious. Per person, cook 1/4 cup washed red lentils in 3/4 cup water with a blob of butter and a sprinkling of salt for 15 minutes. Nothing is easier. The other day I made Indian dal for supper to be served on brown rice, and decided to put coconut milk in it. It was delicious and creamy and excellent comfort food, but the beautiful yellow colour I have come to expect had turned into a very unappetizing gray sludge.

    • Indeed – I am beginning to realize vegetarians have some of the best recipes. (Ugh, why did it take me so long to figure this out??) Along with using more beans, I’m determined to cook vegetarian meals at least four days a week.

      C has a bad reaction to lentils, but if you have any other favourite recipes (lnks, sites, “search fors”, cookbooks, whatever) I’d love any advice or guidance you could provide!

      • I started my vegetarian adventure with Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé and Recipes for a Small Planet by Ellen Buchman Ewald, working off the principle of protein complementarity, which has been shown to be more and less complicated than Lappé espoused. Both books have some great vegetarian recipes in them. Then there is any cookbook published by Mollie Katzen, starting with the original Moosewood Cookbook (which was later revised, but I still prefer the first); they will not disappoint. If C has problems with lentils, you can always use split peas, and there are ways to substitute tofu, seitan and/or tempeh for animal proteins in almost any dish. While I am not a vegan, Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson is full of very tasty recipes.

  2. I believe I prefer the Irish stew !!:)
    BTW I have to ask what is the difference between dried legume and beans ? In France , people ten to confuse vegetables sand legumes . Sensu stricto a legume is the fruit ( fresh or dry)containing the seeds in the family of peas, beans , lens , clover etc …. But whatever the name , the main thing is the good food !!!! 🙂
    Love ❤

    • Hi Michel – your classification is correct. Legumes are all those things. The recipe lists “legumes” because one could use beans, lentils or peas (substituting the garlic seasoning with vinegar for lentils and marjoram for peas.) I specified beans because that’s what I used.

      My husband prefers the Irish stew as well!

  3. Thank you for your recipes. I cook a lot of beans/split pea/lentils during the winter. I have no specific amounts, but add chopped onion, green/yellow/red pepper, some minced garlic and a whole dried cayenne pepper (which I remove before serving). I just add whatever kind of leftover meat we happen to have…or do vegetarian if we have no meat on hand. Being from the South, i make cornbread to go with the soup. There are worse things than being “poor” or frugal, or as we jokingly refer to our current financial situation and hopes of improving it, “the X-year plan”–as in how the Communist Party always extended the 5 year plan to a 10 year plan when they were unable to accomplish goals in original alloted time.

    • Money is foremost in my mind these days. We’re stretched pretty tight. But I’m also trying to be mindful that our “poor” is defined in relation to incredible wealth. Compared to our neighbours we might not have much, but compared to many others, we are kings.
      I like the idea of using beans casually (as in, not the main ingredient of a set recipe). Once I’m more accustomed to them, I’ll experiment. My next project is to make a “brothy” bean soup that doesn’t end up in a mush. Heh.
      I just started baking bread this fall. So far, I’ve just made ryes and a couple of whitebread variations. Cornbread is daunting to me, as I remember trying it years ago and producing an inedible brick. Is it tricky, or did I just have bad luck?

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