Spicy Vegetable Soup with Soya Beans and Shiitake Mushrooms…

Note – the soup is horrible!

It could be my sense of taste – it comes and goes. The soup really can’t taste of nothing – but it seems to.

I’ll know more tomorrow.


Today, winter has staged a comeback – it’s dark, dank, and dismal. No-one seems to have told the birds, though, and they’re singing their feathery heads off. Of course, what they’re actually saying is, “This is my tree/telephone-pole/TV aerial, and you lot can fuck right off!”. And one of them is doing a pretty fair imitation of geese and an angry squirrel.

Anyhoo, it’s definitely a soup day, and time for a new recipe.

I thought, for a change, I’d put in some fresh Shiitake mushrooms, but they can be a bit leathery, so they are very finely chopped in the food processor, which will maximise the flavour without the chewiness. Shiitake are 5.5% protein. Not exactly earth-shattering but good for mushrooms.

There are also fresh (well, frozen), soya beans, mainly for the protein content, 12.4% according to the pack, and Very Fine Green Beans, very much not for the protein, as they yield a dismal 1.8%, being mostly pod and, again, according to pack info, but for a different taste and texture.

I’ve never really liked soya beans – it’s the slightly waxy texture due to the oil content – but I’ve noticed that as I get older, my tastes are changing somewhat (q.v. Tofu), and for the sake of the protein I’m prepared to give them another chance. I’ve never tried them in soup, just on their own, so perhaps the other ingredients, and the spices, plus the additional liquid, will make them more palatable.

Something very odd, though. They’re Birds Eye Field Fresh Soya Beans, dated April 2015, but Birds Eye no longer produce them, according to their website. They will happily give you two recipes featuring the soya beans that no longer exist, which speaks to carelessness or a very sudden deletion, but not a sniff of a soya bean will you find.

I’ve sent a tweet to their Twitter account, asking what’s going on – no reply after 5 hours. If they’ve been discontinued, is it because there’s a problem with them? (Yes! See below.) In which case I want to know, or is it just down to lack of demand? Compared to the dried beans they do seem a tad overpriced.

Soya beans take 2 ½ minutes and the VFGB 3 minutes to boil on the hob, it says – I’ll believe that when I see it.

And, indeed, that is rubbish! After three minutes the soya beans are like bullets and the VFGB like leather. Forget what it says on the bag, just cook the buggers until soft! Damn – forgot to keep an eye on the time. Checked at 15-20 minutes (beans are still crunchy, VFGB soft). Probably half an hour is about right for soya beans at a simmer. But, hey, it’s soup – a bit overcooked doesn’t matter as much as undercooked.

40 minutes! Soya beans still firm. I’m starting to suspect that they’ll never be truly soft like normal beans. They’re not crunchy more, as I said, waxy.

Over an hour now and no change. I think this explains their absence from the website.

In future, I’ll be using the dried version. Not only are they vastly cheaper, as I said the other day, they look to be in much better condition (lot of broken beans in the Birds Eye bag), and they’re organic. I’ve cooked these in the past and I don’t recall them being as firm as the fresh ones have turned out to be – deeply unimpressed** – but if they haven’t softened in over an hour, they’re just not going to. I pity anyone who tried eating them after 2 ½ minutes!

**Maybe the freezing process is detrimental to the finished product?

Jane Grigson, in her “Vegetable Book” commends soya beans for tasting “less beany” and “less rustic” though, personally, I don’t see either of those as faults, and suggests their use in soups or as meat extenders – no mention of any difficulty in cooking them.

Feeling just a touch grouchy at the moment – goddamned leg’s killing me. It’s OK if I rest but, hell, I’ve got to eat!

Well, OK, that’s a crock, I’ve got a fridge and a freezer full of food, I’ll not starve, but I wanted to publish the recipe and, with new ingredients, I had to make it first. I am asking myself, though, as I had the processor out for the mushrooms, why I didn’t use it for the rest of the veg? No idea – I just get great satisfaction from doing it the old-fashioned way, with a knife. Too many basic skills are being lost to machines – god help society if the technological apocalypse ever really happens!

So, for what it’s worth, here’s the recipe. It’s possible you can buy another brand of fresh soya beans, or do what I’m doing from now on and use dried that you’ve soaked and cooked in advance, in which case the amount will be the same as for fresh.


4 cooking onions or half a dozen medium Echalion shallots, or a mix, finely chopped

3 medium carrots, diced

Celeriac, about the same quantity as carrots, diced

120g fresh Shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, roughly chopped, and blitzed in the food processor (do the stalks separately, they need a little longer as they’re quite fibrous)

3 Kallo organic veg stock cubes

2 tablespoons sweet paprika

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic granules

480g (full bag) frozen Birds Eye soya beans, defrosted

200g frozen Birds Eye Very Fine Green Beans, defrosted

A good knob of butter, preferably clarified

A splash of olive oil

Maldon Sea salt

Schwartz fine black pepper

2 tablespoons Schwartz Parsley

Marigold Vegetable Bouillon Powder, to taste if needed

2 tablespoons plain flour (I use bread flour, but plain is fine)


Gently sweat the alliums in the butter and oil over a low heat – I bet you can guess how this goes by now – until soft but not coloured. Stir in the spices and cook off for a few minutes, before adding the mushrooms. Stir well and continue to cook for a few minutes longer – what you have now is called a duxelles – traditionally used as a stuffing or, as in our case, a soup ingredient.

Tip in the carrot and celeriac and put the stock cubes on top of them. Pour boiling water over the cubes – this will ensure they dissolve – enough to just cover the veg. Stir again and simmer until the carrot and celeriac is soft.

Add the soya beans and VFGBs, add enough boiling water to cover again, bring back up to temperature and simmer until tender.

And that, of course, is where it all went belly up!

So, let’s assume that you, constant reader, are more content than I am with the soya beans – and you might be, I’m a notoriously picky bugger – then whisk in 2 tablespoons of plain flour to thicken the soup just a little, and cook out for 10 minutes (it will help keep the mushrooms from settling out when it’s served). Check and adjust the seasoning, adding a little Marigold if you feel the need, stir in the parsley, and set aside to cool.

When cold, refrigerate overnight, giving the sneaky little devils time to get up to whatever it is they do in the dark, when you think the soup is just sitting there getting colder.

Reheat the next day and serve, as ever, with good bread.

Or throw it away…