Listen, I know I’ve been terrible lately. You should see my dashboard – a graveyard of abandoned half written posts, which, when I find time to get back to them seem no longer relevant.
I’m trying to figure out a system that will help me do it all. A full time job, a full time thesis project for my masters degree in nutrition, rehabbing a broken ankle, being a good friend and a good wife, and this here blog. It’s a lot. It’s going to be a crazy 9 months (thesis defense will be on the 4th or 5th of June, not that I’m counting), and there will be times, probably often, when something has to slide. When that happens, as it inevitably will, I refuse to beat myself up over it. Some weeks I’ll be here with a recipe, other weeks with an article roundup. Maybe from time to time I’ll surprise us all by posting twice in the same week. Other times I won’t be here at all. I’ll thank you all in advance for your patience with those times. Your presence here means the world to me, and don’t think for a second I take any of you for granted. It’s all just kind of bonkers right now.
But enough about that. Let’s talk about these beans!
There are few things I love more than a big old pot of beans, and these are really spectacular. I’ve spent years, YEARS of my life trying to replicate the lovely puddle of black beans that comes on the plate in a Mexican restaurant. I could never get it right, and I could never figure out why.
Back in May I threw a taco fiesta for Paul’s birthday, which was a suitably epic evening including a guacamole competition (a guac off!) and a piñata. I had a big pot of black beans simmering on the stove and was flipping through the Smitten Kitchen cookbook for inspiration when the page fell open to Deb’s black bean ragout. Woah! Just like me she’d been trying to perfect the puddle of beans for eons, but very unlike me, she’d cracked the code! The trick? You start with dried beans, layer all kinds of delicious things into the cooking liquid, and cook ‘em slow and low until they’ve broken down into a wonderfully flavourful black bean sludge. Yes, sludge. Yum.
These beans have changed my life! I’ve cooked up a big pot for taco nights from time to time, but the real beauty is having a mass of beans in the fridge. The leftovers make great packed lunches (a lunchbox taco salad is now frequent in my lunch rotations) and even better breakfasts (coming soon(ish): kale and black bean breakfast tacos).
Spicy Black Bean Ragout Recipe:
The original recipe was written for a slow cooker, which I do not have, so I’ve tinkered with it a bit to figure out the best stovetop option. If you have a slow cooker then by all means just toss everything in there and fire it on. If you’re working with a stove top option the cooking time may vary a bit depending on your beans and the hardness of your water, but I’ve given a pretty good ballpark. These beans take a good amount of time, but very little effort and I think you’ll find they’re well worth it.
If the black beans have been soaked beforehand it will reduce the cooking time considerably, but it isn’t strictly necessary. If you have soaked the beans be sure to use the flavourful (and nutrient rich) soaking water for cooking.
Recipe barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen
450g dried black beans
9-10 cups water
1 large onion, finely diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp ground cumin
½ tsp dried oregano
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried chili flakes
2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp limejuice
In a large pot combine everything except the lime juice. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat until the beans are tender. This could take a couple of hours if you haven’t soaked the beans in advance or if your water is very hard (ours is extremely hard).
Once the beans are tender (test a few!), remove the lid and simmer the pot, uncovered, until it starts to reduce and thicken. Stir the pot every once in a while, scooping the beans up from the bottom of the pot. This could take another couple of hours. If you like a thicker bean ragout you can puree a small amount of the beans (I use a hand blender right in the pot) towards the end of cooking.
All told I find that this takes about 4-6 hours to get the thickness I’m after, but bear in mind they will thicken a bit more as they cool. Once the beans are done cooking and are nice and thick, stir in the lime juice and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Serve hot, warm, or cold. They’re delicious every which way.
Beans are a good source of folate, dietary fiber, protein, phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium and vitamin K.
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013