Wednesday, August 06, 2008

turtle beans and soft floury breads

Beans. They come in all shapes and sizes. Each a powerhouse of complex carbohydrate goodness.

The pantry excavation continues. Like a culinary archaeologist on a dig, every few days a forgotten gem is bought out into the light.

This week’s challenge was turtle beans. Little black beans, that I am sure I had some grand plan for a year or two ago when the kitchen was all sparkly and new. I set them to soak in the morning, having no coherent plan as to how they would transform into dinner by the evening. What turned up on our plates was a pleasant surprise.

Though I have a pressure cooker, while getting to know a new bean I prefer to cook them conventionally to see how long they take to cook. This provides a wonderful excuse to crank up the stereo and settle into some serious Scramble playing on Facebook.

The plan that evolved, between connecting letters to make cunning words, was for refried beans. This is a simple process of combining onion, garlic and cumin with the starchy bean of choice, mashing the bean into the flavours to make a kind of creamy, leguminous mixture. I added a generous pinch of salt and some fresh coriander and stirred them through once cooked.

A large, organic tomato (the last in the bowl) became a simple salsa – diced finely with a fresh red chilli and jazzed up with some coriander green tops and a squeeze of lemon.

There was also a lonely avocado begging to be used. This was eked out into slices. Though if there had been more it may have been transformed into guacamole.

But how to turn these ingredients into a meal? Rice just didn’t seem right. This needed something beadlike – a tortilla or taco, to wrap around the vegetables. Nothing in the house fitted the bill and I was tempted to head to the store. Fortunately the spirit of the challenge stopped me in my tracks and for the next half hour searched the net for tortilla ideas. In my usual style I read the lot and melded them into something that my diet would allow.

Kneading the dough on the cool granite bench top was pure therapy. It made me want to make more, despite the fact I eat so little wheat these days. This batch size is enough for 2 - double or triple as desired.

Simple tortillas

2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
10 – 15 grams butter (or oil, vegetable shortening)
1/2 –3/4 cup warm water

extra flour for rolling

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the scant amount of butter or shortening and rub it through the flour mixture with your fingers. You can use more if you want. The texture you are aiming for is uniformly sandy with no buttery lumps. Take your time, this process is a kitchen meditation and incredibly soothing if you are in the right mood. Once that stage is complete (a good 5 minutes) slowly pour in some warm water and mix with your hands until a lump of dough is formed.

Turn the dough out onto the bench or a board sprinkled with flour and knead until it feels stretchy and smooth. When completed, cover plastic wrap (or a damp tea towel) and leave in the fridge for half an hour.

When you are ready to eat, heat up your largest, heaviest bottomed frying pan. My cast iron number (the sister to the French pot) was perfect. This amount of dough makes 6 large or 8 smaller (large saucer sized) tortillas. Choose the size and divide the dough into the desired amount of pieces. Roll into balls and roll til thin. One recipe said “1/8th of an inch” but to be honest in my metricized world I could not visualise such a width. I just rolled until it was about 1/2 centimetre or so.

If you have prepared the tortillas ahead of cooking, cover with a damp tea towel so they don’t dry out. Place a round of rolled out dough into the dry, hot pan. In a minute or so a little bubble will start to rise in the dough. Turn it over and cook for another minute. Eat immediately.

The soft, warm floury breads were filled with the refried beans, salsa and avocado and made a very satisfying meal.

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Blogger Johanna said...

love your photo of the turtle beans - they look so beautifully black - but I am guessing this was before cooking them???

5:36 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Yes, just rinsed the dust off and poured them out to have a good look at them.

8:02 pm  
Blogger din said...

I'm curious to know how long you ended up cooking them. The one time I tried I gave up as they had been simmering for hours and were still hard in the centre. I guess they may have been in the pantry for a 'little' while. Love the sound of the tortillas.

9:05 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Din it was rather a lot of games of scramble and an unexpected visitor dropping off a party invitation, so I lost track of time. The cooking guide I read said 2 hours which surprised me for such a little bean. I know they had at least 1.5 hours - 2 hours of simmering but definitely not more.

9:11 pm  

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