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Five flavours » Child-friendly, Narrative Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian » Vegetarian Black Beans and Rice

Vegetarian Black Beans and Rice

Vegetarian Black Beans and Rice

I have not been to Cuba, but I have lived in South Florida, which has  a sizeable Cuban community, where you can get the most delicious black beans and rice ever. Well, OK, maybe not ever since I’ve already mentioned that I haven’t actually been to Cuba. Tucking into a steaming bowl of black beans and feeling the crunch of fresh onions on top is something I could do just about any day of the week or for any meal and remain happy. But Cubans are not the only people to enjoy the contrast of smooth and creamy beans with a bit o’ crunch on top, no Sir-ee! Indians also go in for all manner of crunchy bits (namkeens) from fresh veggies to deep fried dhal (lentils) to purposely made flour-based crispies such as bhujia that, mixed with other ingredients, often get called simply “Bombay mix” outside of India. Sure, you can just eat these right out of your hand, but to sprinkle them on your favourite thick dhal or chick pea curry, you end up with something a wee bit delightful. North American’s crumble crackers on their soup and croutons on their salads and many a South-east Asian will doctor up their food with a smattering of crushed dried chilies and some fresh, crisp coriander leaves. Students in England will even put crisps (potato chips) in between bread for a crunchy sandwich of sorts. Hmmm, or was that just us? By any account, it seems interacting with your food for the crunch factor is a world-wide phenomenon. Don’t you just love things that we all do, as they say in Thailand, “Same, same, but different”?

Another thing we all seem to agree on is the combination of protein and carbs for a fulfilling meal and black beans and rice are a perfect example. Now, I can just hear many a Cuban shuddering with fear that this recipe is not made properly with bits of pork, but I wanted to see if I could make a really healthy version. So,  no this is not “authentic” Cuban fare, but it is delicious and extremely easy to make.

By the way, I’ve decided that my unrecipes, you know, those ones that don’t look like they should be in a proper cookbook because of a lack of measurements and exact processes will now be called “narrative recipes”. I love the idea of a narrative recipe because that is exactly how most people learn to cook around the world. Someone either demonstrates the dish or tells a person what to put in the pot until they sprout cook’s wings and fly solo with it. So, here is my first official narrative recipe.
 

Vegetarian Black Beans and Rice

 
Once upon a time…just kidding! Get a couple of cups of dried black beans and enjoy the meditation that is sifting through them to get out the stones and broken ones. Then, put them on to soak over night and go to sleep dreaming of tomorrow’s dinner.

In the morning, rinse the beans and put into a big pot with enough water to cover and then half that amount of water again. They need lots of swimming room. Do not add salt whilst cooking the beans. Legend has it that cooking legumes with salt will keep them hard and chalky rather than soft and creamy, and who am I to argue with legend? Boil the beans hard for the first ten minutes and then let them simmer until they are cooked. Be aware that this may take an hour or more depending on how long your soak was and how old the beans are. When they are done, you can either proceed to make the dish or set them aside and make the dish at dinner time.

To make the final dish, first chop an onion, place it into iced water and set aside. This is to take away some of the sulfur, so if you don’t mind the sulfurousness (is that even a word?), don’t bother with the iced water.

Chop another onion and some garlic, the more the better, and even some green pepper or celery if you are feeling fancy. Fry these up on low heat and then add the beans plus a bit of the cooking water. You may need all of the cooking water if the beans have mostly soaked it up. You want it to be thick and stewlike, not thin like a soup. Simmer as long as you can withough turning all the beans to mush, although you do want some of the beans to mush up*. Just before serving, stir in about a teaspoon to a tablespoon of sesame oil into the pot. If you add this too early it will cook out. This will add a nice smokiness which would have been imparted by the pork had it been the traditional version.

To serve, place some rice in the bottom of a bowl and ladle on the beans. Top with some chopped coriander and some of the onions for the obligatory crunch. Some also like a scoop of sour cream or plain yoghurt on top which makes the whole thing rich and creamy.

* a technical term used in the finest kitchens in Cuba. No, really. I swear.

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One Response to "Vegetarian Black Beans and Rice"

  1. Eileen says:

    Mmm, invite me over for beans and rice, anytime! And I have been to Cuba, and strangely, I don’t recall the food being that great. Though Cuban food is awesome. Very odd, really. I’m sure your version is perfect. I hadn’t thought of the sesame oil for smokiness. Good option!

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