Sometimes particular words or phrases I like the sound of get stuck in my head. They float and loop around like a catchy pop song. I love words.

I once watched someone make Ile Flottante on MasterChef and those two gorgeous French words jammed in my mind for almost a week; right up until I had to tell myself to shut up. The last time this happened it was with two simpler words – taco soup.

Taco soup, taco soup, taco soup all, day, long. I was listening to an American radio station when the DJ’s sidekick mentioned that she’d made a huge batch of taco soup. This was met with laughter, as apparently it’s usually cooked around Christmas time.

It’s weird that in all my time in America – especially in the south – nobody mentioned taco soup to me. I didn’t know what it was but I knew I wanted to make it. A quick Google scan brought up hundreds of recipes, all completely different.

It became clear that this is the kind of meal where everyone claims to have the only recipe you’ll ever need. I’d seen enough to know that as long as I stuck to south western flavours I could probably construct my own ‘ultimate taco soup’.

Busy mums seem to love cooking this stuff; mainly because it involves lots of tipping and pouring, with minimal prep time. This put me off a little. Opening tins and packets, and adding nothing but fried or pickled vegetables felt like a big cheat. Mine included…

  • 500g Minced Beef Steak (Browned)
  • One tin pinto beans
  • Two tins chopped tomatoes
  • One carton chopped tomatoes with chillies
  • One 400g tin sweetcorn
  • Approx 200g black olives (roughly chopped)
  • Four fresh green chillies
  • One packet taco spice mix
  • Two large fresh red bell peppers (roughly chopped)
  • One large onion (roughly chopped)
  • Small gel block concentrated beef stock
  • Sea salt
  • Brown sugar
  • Water to loosen

I allowed it to simmer until all the fresh vegetables had softened and until the balance of seasoning was just right. Depending on how much water you add, these quantities can make enough soup to easily feed six people. I topped the soup with sour cream, fresh coriander, Monterrey Jack cheese and a sprinkling of crushed tortilla chips. The mixture of different flavours, textures, temperatures and freshness tasted so good.

Assembling my own favourite items from the vast array of possibilities was just as much fun as the actual cooking. Nothing was more fun than the eating, though. I wonder which combination of delicious words I can get stuck in my head next. Vanilla bacon pudding?





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