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Salt cod and bean soup

This Ecuadorian salt cod and bean soup is typically served at Easter, and is ideal for a feast.

By Emma Knowles & Lisa Featherby
  • 40 mins preparation
  • 1 hr 40 mins cooking (plus soaking)
  • Serves 8 - 10
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Salt cod and bean soup
This Ecuadorian soup is typically served at Easter, and is ideal for a crowd. Traditionally 12 varieties of bean are used, representing the apostles, but use any mix you like, and whatever vegetables are in season. Look for salt cod that isn't too dry - a thick fillet or side is best. Very dry fish take more soaking. 


  • 450 gm mixed dried beans, such as lima, kidney or cannellini beans, soaked overnight in cold water, and drained (2½ cups)
  • 60 ml olive oil (¼ cup)
  • 2 white onions, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 15 gm achiote paste (see note)
  • 1½ tsp coarsely ground cumin seeds
  • 500 ml milk (2 cups)
  • 3 litres chicken stock (12 cups)
  • 600 gm butternut pumpkin, peeled, halved, seeded and diced (½ small)
  • 130 gm green lentils (2/3 cup)
  • 130 gm long-grain white rice (2/3 cup)
  • 900 gm boneless, skinless salt cod fillet, soaked overnight in 3 changes of water, drained and cut into 4cm-5cm chunks
  • 120 gm frozen peas (1 cup)
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • Chopped coriander, thinly sliced jalapeño chillies, quartered hard-boiled eggs and ground chilli, such as ancho chilli (optional), extra-virgin olive oil and lime wedges (optional), to serve


  • 1
    Boil beans in a large saucepan until just tender (20-25 minutes), then drain and set aside.
  • 2
    Heat oil in a large casserole over medium heat, add onion and sauté until soft and translucent (10-12 minutes). Add garlic, stir until fragrant (2-3 minutes), then stir in achiote paste and cumin, and stir constantly until toasted (2-4 minutes). Add milk, 2 litres stock and cooked beans and simmer gently uncovered until beans are very tender (30-35 minutes). Add pumpkin, lentils and rice, and stir to combine, then add salt cod and remaining stock, and simmer until lentils, rice and cod are tender (15-20 minutes). Season to taste, stir in peas and zucchini, and cook until just tender (2-4 minutes). Remove salt cod from soup, break into bite-sized pieces, then return to soup.
  • 3
    Ladle soup into bowls, top with coriander, jalapeños, hard-boiled egg and ground chilli, drizzle with olive oil and serve with lime wedges.


Achiote or annatto paste, made from the seeds of the annatto tree, is available online from Fireworks Foods ( 
Drink Suggestion: Rich, dry pinot gris. Drink suggestion by Max Allen