It’s no good being too timid with a Mexican bean dish: it’s meant to have some kick. But how much is too hot or too feeble will depend on your taste. Cooking reduces the fire of chillies, but it’s usually safe to go for the ones somewhere in the middle of the range. The authentic Mexican dish includes the Mexican herb epazote, but I have yet to see this in a British shop and I substituted dried oregano. Ideally this dish would be greatly improved by adding some ham stock but this was beyond my current shopping powers so I used smoky bacon instead. *The dish can be easily adapted for veggies and vegans by omitting the bacon and doubling the amount of cumin, as this can add some of the same smoky taste.
Any tinned beans will work in this dish but ideally it is made with pinto beans. Black eyed beans or kidney beans will work well.
Tip of the day: tinned beans are cheap but you can save money and feel tremendously virtuous, as I did, if you start from scratch with dried beans. I soaked pinto beans in cold water for 6 hours then drained and rinsed them. I then did 10 minutes of fast boiling, reducing the heat to a simmer for 90 minutes until they were soft but still had a little bite.
Serves 2 generously
*4 rashers smoky streaky bacon (omit for veggies and vegans)
1 large onion, diced
Oil for frying
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 green or red chillies, mild or hot as you prefer
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons chilli powder, hot or mild
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
450g tin of tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Small handful fresh coriander
300 g drained and rinsed beans from a tin of your choice
A few extra coriander leaves for garnish
Cut the bacon into tiny pieces. Add to a hot pan without any additional fat and fry it until it has released its fat and is crisp. Add the diced onion and sweat on a low heat for about 6 minutes until it is softened. Add a little oil. Add the garlic and fry it for about minute. Scrape the seeds and pith out of the chillies. Chop them finely and add to the pan then all the spices, and salt. Fry them under a moderate heat for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, water, puree, dried oregano, finely chopped coriander and beans. Simmer in the open pan for about 20 minutes until the stew has reached the consistency you like. Ideally it should be thick but not too dry. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and scatter with the remaining coriander leaves.
Serve immediately with the accompaniment of your choice: eg, rice, tacos or flatbreads.