I don’t cook very much using beans, which is odd given that they are tasty, I like them and they are very healthy. For example, I love the things Wahaca do with beans – their black bean and cheese quesadillas as divine and I frequently over-order them. But I just don’t cook much with beans at home. So, it’s time to change that.
This recipe is nothing more than “a collecting of things in the kitchen” but the result is surprisingly good. It involves minimal effort, provided that you have the wherewithal to be a little organised and make sure things are left to soak or simmer for the requisite amount of time. Really, don’t skimp on soaking the beans. I can’t speak from personal experience, but if you don’t do it properly, I have read about people who have suffered all manner of “digestive issues” (which I take to mean nasty cramps) from eating undercooked beans. So whenever that thought pops into my mind, and I’m not sure if beans are cooked enough, I leave them boiling a little bit longer. Just in case. But let’s move on.
I’ve been looking for a way to use up a selection of mixed beans (“Wholesome 107 10 bean mix”) I bought in Waitrose about six months ago. They looked quite attractive in the packet – black-eyed beans, black turtle beans, butter beans, haricot beans, lima beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans, rose cocoa beans, alubia beans and mung beans. Sort of like this:
Probably the reason I am not so into cooking with beans is that when you’re home at night and hungry right then, the idea of soaking beans and waiting doesn’t really work (and besides, I don’t own a pressure cooker). However, this is a great recipe that lasts a couple of days, and has also been a great hit at lunch, topped with some natural yoghurt and a little grated cheddar in my groovy new lunchbox.
After all the stress of identifying the individual bean types (which it turned out were listed on the back…duh!), the rest of the recipe is a doddle, if you can commit to popping into the kitchen every thirty minutes for a couple of hours. I fried up some onion, garlic and red pepper, added some spice to get a bit of a kick, then added tomatoes plus a few mustard seeds (for appearance and a bit of flavour). After leaving the lot to simmer very, very gently for a couple of hours, it was rich, thick and tasty, and actually needs very little in the way of additional seasoning. Indeed, you would do well to add as little salt as possible, so that the sweetness of the peppers and tomatoes comes through, and match that with some good, tangy cheese for a tasty meal. Add a few baked tortilla chips for a very faux-Mexican experience.
My suggestion? Make loads, and feel virtuous about how healthy your lunch is at work during the week.
To make spicy bean stew:
• 2-3 cups mixed beans
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 red pepper, very thinly sliced
• 1 teaspoon piment d’espelette or paprika
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1 tin chopped tomatoes
• 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
• zest of one lemon
• 1/2 stock cube
• plain yoghurt, grated cheddar and chopped coriander, to serve
Soak the beans overnight in cold water. The next day, drain, rinse well, then add fresh water and cook the beans according to instructions (usually – boil for 15 minutes, then simmer for about 1-2 hours until tender).
Meanwhile, heat the oil in another pot and add the onion. Cook gently until golden brown, then add the garlic, stir well, and a minute later, add the pepper. Cook until the pepper is soft, then add the spices. Cook for another minute, then add a splash of water – the spices will form a “paste”. Keep cooking until the water has cooked off, and the spice paste looks oily.
Add the tinned tomatoes, cooked beans, mustard seeds, lemon zest, stock cube and a cup of water to the spice mixture, and cook over a gentle heat until the beans are tender and the mixture has reduced to a thick sauce.
Serve topped with spoonfuls of plain yoghurt, grated cheese and some chopped coriander.