18 September 2012

Beans... wonderful beans!

Dried Pinto Beans or Speckled Sugar Beans (as we call them in SA)
I can rave about beans for ages, and have been cooking with them for the past 20 years!  Besides protein, they also provide fibre, which is badly lacking in today's processed foods.  Recently 2 people asked me for easy recipes to start cooking beans with, so before I waste anymore time, here is one of our family favourites.  My variations and tips are below.

BLACK EYE BEAN & VEGETABLE STEW (serves 4 - 6)
250g dried black eye beans (or peas as they're sometimes called)
1 large onion
3 sticks celery
3 carrots
1 green pepper
2 cloves garlic
50g butter
1 can chopped tomatoes (or 3 fresh ones)
1 tbsp tomato puree (or 1 sachet)
2 - 3 tbsp wine (or dash of wine vinegar)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
chopped parsley

NIGHT BEFORE:
Soak beans overnight in cold water with double the amount of water. 

NEXT MORNING:
Drain and rinse beans.  Place in large pot, cover with water and simmer gently for about 40 minutes until tender.  Drain in colander and keep aside.  If you have a pressure cooker, cook for only 15 minutes.

AN HOUR BEFORE SUPPER:
Peel and chop onion, slice celery thinly, scrape & dice carrots.  Remove seeds from pepper and slice thinly, crush garlic.  Melt butter in a medium sized pot, and add all the prepared vegetables.  Fry gently without browning for about 10 minutes.  Then add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree and wine.  Season with salt & pepper and allow to simmer for 10 - 15 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender.  Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and/or grated cheese with brown rice and green salad.  Mmmm....delicious!

TIPS & TRICKS:
  1. One of the problems when cooking with dried beans is that we forget to soak them, so they're not ready when we want to use them.  To avoid this I always soak the whole bag of dried beans immediately when I get home from the shops.  If you have the beans soaking in a prominent spot in your kitchen, you're less likely to forget about them. 
  2. Next day I cook the whole lot with 2 bay leaves for flavour (DON'T ADD SALT as it toughens them), and when cooled, divide it up into 2 or 3 small ziplok bags and freeze (labelled of course), so that they're ready to go.
  3. If you're planning to include beans in your diet often, I REALLY recommend buying a pressure cooker!  It cuts the bean cooking time by at least one-third!
  4. I always add a tablespoon of (Ina Paarmans) vegetable stock powder to my vegetarian foods.
  5. I also always add a teaspoon of sugar when using bought tomato paste or canned tomatoes.
  6. I use cayenne pepper instead of black as it's healthier.
  7. I also cook brown rice in bulk so that I can grab a bag from the freezer and defrost in time for supper.
That's it.  I hope you try it because if you do, you'll love the taste of this recipe.  Let me know how yours turned out? 

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