Here is another example of the South American style cooking that I raved about in my warm corn salsa post. As a vegetarian dish it isn’t particularly authentic, but it is really delicious. This recipe is of my own invention, but based on reading a lot of recipes on cooking black beans, especially those by Thomasina Miers, who I love. While it might seem a little bit too wholesome or ‘hand-knitted yogurt’ – the beans are incredibly meaty and flavourful, with the additions of cheese and sour cream, it doesn’t have to be all that wholesome. When I make chilli con soya, I throw in so many different ingredients to try and make it taste of something (chipotle paste, chocolate etc) and it never really works – this recipe though, is so simple and yet has exactly the depth of flavour that I am looking for. I thoroughly recommend it.
This is the first time I have cooked with dried beans, somehow they always scared me. Maybe I am just generally not organised enough to get them soaking from the night before- that tends to require forward planning. Or maybe its just that it is so much easier to open a can. After boiling these babies for 2 ½ hours, yeah it is easer to reach for a can – but – 1) I am 100% sure they taste better this way 2) canned black beans aren’t the easiest to find 3) I feel incredibly smug for doing something properly for once. Stirring that black, bubbling, pot brought up my inner witch too – staring into the pot’s murky depths I cackled, and thought dark thoughts at those who deserve them (you know who you are) with a counter-clockwise stir after every 7.
1 packet of black beans - 500g
2 onions, 1 quartered and 1 diced
4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and bashed
1 bay leaf
1 shallow tsp fennel seeds (if you have them)
1 -2 red peppers
2 heaped tsp paprika
2 heaped tsp ground cumin
½ tsp cinnamon
Tabasco – to taste, but at least 5 drops
Lime juice – approx the juice of 1 lime (I used a few spoons of juice from a bottle, as the limes in asda looked particularly manky – that’s what you get for shopping on a bank holiday I imagine.
1 bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Cheesy corn-bread – use the recipe from the polenta pan-pizza post, but add a pile of grated cheese to the batter. Another delicious use for this cornbread recipe is to add frozen corn, chopped chillies and coriander to the batter.
For the beans – soak the beans overnight. Add them to a large pot with covered with 10cm of water. Add the quartered onion, the garlic, the bay and fennel. Bring to the boil and cook for at least 2 hours, stirring every now and again to stop it burning, and skimming the white foamy stuff off the top with a spoon. You will also need to top the water up at some point. Once the beans are soft (for me this was at 2h 25) add salt, at least 1tsp, and cook for a further 10 minutes. Make sure that the beans are soft as salt can make them go tough if they are not properly cooked. When ready, drain them, discard the bay and other bits (if you can find them) and empty the beans into a clean saucepan ready for later.
For the peppers – preheat the oven to 180 or so (with fan). Cut the peppers into large strips, toss in olive oil and roast until they are looking a little shrivelled and toasty. When they are cool enough to handle, peel the skins from them, chop them roughly and add them to the cooked beans.
While the peppers are cooking, fry the diced onion with all of the ground spices on a medium-low heat until translucent and slightly caramelised. Add these to the cooked beans too.
Put the beans back on the heat while you prepare the cornbread, also adding to the pot the lime juice and Tabasco. Stir through the coriander just before you are ready to serve.
Serve with the cornbread in generous wedges, salsa and sour cream. Put some extra lime juice and Tabasco on the table, so people can adjust the flavours more according to their preferences.