Thursday, June 05, 2008

anticipation and more beans

As much as I love the convenience of grabbing a can or two of organic beans from the cupboard, it is not the same as soaking the dried goods and cooking them up from scratch. Even though the majority of legumes I buy are still conventionally grown, the texture and flavour is far superior when cooked the old fashioned way.

This week I have been musing on the role of anticipation in cooking and eating. You may have rightly gathered I’m one of those spur of the moment, throw it together and don’t spend days agonising over it – kind of home cook. The process of planning and making the solstice cake has got me in touch with the other side of the creative process, pouring through hand written recipes, remembering the first time I made a dish or the person who passed it on to me, planning the shopping trip for special ingredients, arranging my diary so I can have a long stretch of uninterrupted time in the kitchen and so much more.

For me cooking beans is like that. Soaking legumes means tomorrow we will eat beans. That I am skipping ahead a whole 24 hours in the planning department, while I still don’t have a clue as to what I will cook tonight. Using dried beans creates a triptych of sorts. First the soaking, quietly in a bowl for at least twelve hours, then the cooking of the beans til they are digestible and lastly their addition to a whole other creation. A definite three-parter cooking wise.

Though I have referenced my usual chili bean recipe before, I’ve never got around to formally recording it. When I first started making this in another country many years ago I have no idea whether I had fallen in love with spices like cumin and coriander then. I certainly had not developed any affection for the green herb that some call cilantro, in fact I detested it! If these flavours are still not to your liking, or you don’t like the heat of chili, stick to garlic and ginger.

Chili Beans

(serves 4, or just 2 hungry people who’d like to have leftovers)

2 cups dried kidney beans

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large, or 2 small, brown onions, diced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
Chili – fresh/dried/red/green – if you like chili you know what you want (in this case I used 1 long, green chili which packed a mighty heat), finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cans chopped tomatoes (or equivalent of fresh, peeled)
1 large carrot, grated (optional)
1 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
sea salt (to taste)
1 – 2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped (optional)

The day before soak your beans in a large bowl, amply covered with water. The next day you will need to set aside an hour or so to cook the beans. Discard the soaking water and cook with fresh. My beans took 55 minutes of simmering until they were ready. Drain in a colander when done and set aside.

In a large heavy bottomed pot sauté onions in vegetable oil over a low flame. Take your time. You don’t need to hurry. Add your ground spices and chilli. Keep cooking til onions are transparent. Add garlic and continue stirring. Pour in the cooked kidney beans, stir til coated with onion and spices then add the two cans of tomatoes. Stir a little more. Add the carrot if you wish to value add your meal with a little extra nutrition. If you would like your beans to have a faintly smoky flavour sprinkle in the paprika (of course what would be better is to use the wonderful Mexican chipotles but this works when you can’t get them). Stir once more and set the pot on a low heat. If you need to get on with having a life outside of a kitchen a heat diffuse mat is indispensable for this.

Cook for about an hour, longer if you have the time. Stir from time to time. Keep an eye on the amount of liquid. If it looks like it is starting to dry out add a little water or good quality vegetable stock. As far as fluid goes remember this is a stew, not a soup.

Before serving add the fresh coriander if you have it.

This bean dish goes well with: brown rice, avocado/guacamole, tacos and eggs.

Update 30/6/08: I varied the ingredients of tonight's beans a little, due to the array of fresh spices and vegetables crying out to be used. The veggie combo was 2 cans beans, 1 tomato, 1 sachet tomato puree, some vege stock plus, 1 onion, 1 large grated parsnip and 1 grated carrot. Spices were fresh turmeric, root ginger, a little cumin seeds (whole), fresh corriander rood and leaves, 1 long green chilli, chilli powder and a little dried crushed red chilli, plus a generous sprinkle of smokey paprika. The hint of sweetness from the parsnip worked well and the spice combo was a winner (even though there was no garlic).

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Anonymous helen said...

oooooooooooooooh - lovely! chilli this time of year is perfect.

although counter to your whole "anticipation" point, can i recommend a pressure-cooker for those days when you really want beans a bit faster?

4:57 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Good point, as I do have a pressure cooker and do use it for beans sometimes. But there are also times when I have an hour to get them just right and I kind of like that too. T

5:09 pm  
Blogger Bwca said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:51 pm  
Blogger Bwca said...

I used to knock out a damn fine chili at my Diner - the Septics came for miles.
Sugar and lemon juice were magic ingredients.
Tonight Pants and I had red beans in our delicious dinner (she cooked), so we are pulsing with legumes too.

(overcooked the link first time I posted this)

7:54 pm  
Blogger Johanna said...

love your paprika tin! I am terrible at organising myself to soak beans but have bought a packet of black beans recently that I have been wondering what to do with - maybe I need to just soak them as you do and think about what to make the next day

9:26 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Another Outspoken Female,
I found your blog and would like to invite you to participate in an Ambassador Program focused on kids nutrition. Sorry for the random post, I couldn't find an email contact. If you're interested, visit for more info. Touch base if you have any questions. I hope to see you in the program.


5:52 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Hi Bwican and Johanna - thanks for your comments.

Huxley, your comment doesn't make it clear that this is a Kraft food initiative. Yes nothing like encouraging children to eat plastic food to indoctrinate them into 'healthy' eating. Or what about an Kraft/Philip Morris connection. Nothing like getting kiddies to segue from vegemite to a lifetime of nicotine addiction, is there!

Instead of deleting your comment, I thought it was only fair to let it stay as a way to give a fuller picture as to the companies many and varied activities. Ambassador for kids nutrition? Perhaps the fruit and veggie industry would be a good place to start.,0,1306987.story

9:52 am  
Anonymous Tim said...

Smoked paprika optional?? :)

I have the exact same container as you, and it's great — chili wouldn't be chili without it. I've found a little bit of cinnamon (half a stick, or a pinch of the powdered stuff) gives an interesting dimension, too.

6:48 pm  

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