Bean soup in Bulgaria is a "national" dish. Most popular is the Monastery Version which is totally vegetarian. When our family makes it, however, we like to add a little meat for a smoky flavor. A smoked ham hock or smoked neck bones along with paprika and fresh mint give this a very distinctive flavor. —inpatskitchen
about 5 quarts
pound dried Great Northern beans, soaked in water for about 6 hours, rinsed and then cooked in water for 45 minutes to an hour until tender
1 1/2 cups diced onion
1 1/2 cups diced carrot
1 1/2 cups diced celery
cloves garlic minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
sweet Hungarian paprika
unsalted chicken broth
large smoked ham hock
chopped fresh mint
minced fresh winter savory ( or one teaspoon dried savory)
chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Additional salt, black pepper and paprika for reseasoning
After cooking your beans, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot and add the onion, carrot celery and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the onion softens.
Add the crushed red pepper, paprika, salt and black pepper and continue to saute for just a few more minutes.
Add the water, chicken broth and ham hock, bring up to a boil and simmer for about an hour, partially covered.
Remove the ham hock from the pot to let cool. Turn the heat off from under the soup pot and stir in the beans, mint, parsley and savory.
Using an immersion blender, blend the soup for just a minute to break up some of the beans. (Alternatively remove about a cup of the beans to a bowl and mash them with a fork and then return them to the pot)
Remove any meat from the ham hock, dice it finely and return it to the pot. Return the soup to a simmer and reseason with salt, pepper and paprika.
NOTE: This soup is best when made very early in the day or even the day before serving.
I think I get my love for food and cooking from my mom, who was an amazing cook. She would start baking and freezing a month before Christmas in order to host our huge open house on Christmas afternoon. I watched and I learned...to this day I try not to procrastinate when it comes to entertaining.
My cooking style is pretty much all over the place, although I'm definitely partial to Greek and Italian cuisine. Oh yes, throw a little Cajun in there too!