[ezcol_1third] This week has been chilly again and we've been spending our evenings cuddled up with books and laptops in the back room by the fire. Cosy, tucked up times call out for piping hot comfort food, and my favourite fireside fare at the moment is hearty black bean soup with skillet cornbread. Latin American food is still super trendy in Australia with Southern American food gaining popularity fast, so this Tex-Mex inspired meal is a simple way to play around with these warming, zesty flavours at home mid-week. And everyone loves corn bread, even if they don't know it yet.

If you're not sure about sourcing the ingredients, I have a few helpful tips: Black beans - especially canned black beans - can be a little tricky to find but I've been able to track them down at my local health food store and at African markets in Moorooka where they're labelled as turtle beans. As for corn meal, I find the polenta in the Coles health food range is finely ground enough to stand in for the real thing.

Black Bean Soup with Skillet Corn Bread Recipe

For the Soup: Prep & cooking time: 15 minutes // Servings: 4


1 tablespoon olive oil 4 garlic cloves, minced 1 teaspoon chili powder 2 cans diced tomatoes in juice 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth 1 cup frozen corn kernels A pinch of coarse salt and ground pepper Shredded leftover chicken (optional) 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving diced avocado and sour cream for garnish


1. Put a large pot on medium heat, add oil and garlic. Stir for 2 minutes.

2. Toss in all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Ladle into bowls, top with fresh lime, avocado, and sour cream.

If you're using dried beans instead of canned...

* 1 can of black beans = 1 1/2 cups of beans once they've been rinsed and drained... to get the same yield with dried beans start with 1 cup dried beans, soak overnight OR In saucepan, cover dried beans with three times their volume of water and bring to boil. Boil for two minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for one hour. Drain.

For the cornbread: cooking time: 30 minutes, servings: 6


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus butter for baking dish 1 cup cornmeal 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 large eggs, lightly beaten 1 1/2 cups buttermilk


1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8-inch baking dish or start melting the butter in your skillet.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and buttermilk. (To approximate your own buttermilk, just pour a tsp of lemon juice into the 1.5 cups regular milk and let stand for a minute.) Pour the buttermilk mixture into the cornmeal mixture and fold together until there are no dry spots (the batter will still be lumpy). Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish or buttery skillet.

4. Pop your skillet or pan into the oven to bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick stuck into the centre of your cornbread comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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Catherine Roberts