Black Bean Chilli… when I first heard that name over twenty years ago, I imagined a black, glossy dish that would put fire in your belly. What I didn’t expect, when my sister dished it up al fresco in San Francisco, was how pretty it looked alongside bowls of rice, guacamole, sour cream, tomato salsa, sweetcorn kernels and grated cheese. The pitchers of Margaritas went down very well in the Californian weather, but I don’t know how they’d do in the Irish spring!
The recipe came home and became one of our family staples. Iníon a h-aon was vegetarian for a period of six years; Iníon a dó loved to serve it in tortilla wraps whenever her friends were around. Fear Chéile likes his liberally sprinkled with dried chillies and ‘ass-kickin’ salsa’.
It has graced the table at family dinners, buffets, children’s and teenagers’ parties and has gone on picnics and in school lunchboxes as it tastes good cold too.
Teenage girls who are counting their calories are always happy to spoon some Black Bean Chilli, tomato salsa and sweetcorn onto their plates; they may leave the more calorific offerings behind, but you have the joy of knowing that they have at least eaten something nutritious.
4 cups black turtle beans
1 lb onions
6 fat cloves garlic
3 sticks celery
2 cans tomatoes
1 jar Discovery Fajita Sauce
3 bay leaves
2 tsp oregano
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons chilli powder, hot or mild
fresh coriander to garnish
Soak beans overnight in plenty of cold water.
The following day, drain off the water, cover with fresh water, add 3 bay leaves, bring to the boil. Skim off froth as it rises to the surface, and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
While the beans are simmering, put a glug of olive oil in a large stew pot.
Chop onions and celery, mince garlic, sauté over a low heat with the lid on until translucent, stirring occasionally.
Add spice mix from Fajita sauce jar and cook for another 5 minutes.
Drain beans, reserving cooking water.
Add beans to stew pot with canned tomatoes, oregano, salt and pepper, and jar of Fajita sauce.
Pour in bean cooking water until there’s about an inch of liquid over the beans and veg in stew pot. Put the lid on and simmer gently for about 1 hour until beans are fully cooked. The liquid will evaporate leaving a lovely gloopy sauce.
At this stage, adjust the seasoning. Depending on how hot you like this, you could add 2 teaspoons of either hot or mild chilli powder. In our family, some like it fiery and some like it mild, so I divide the recipe at this stage and season accordingly. You may be able to add the chilli powder earlier if there’s a consensus at your table.
Dried black turtle beans are available in Tesco, and in whole food shops. They cost very little, and are so satisfying. Vegetarians love them as pulses, together with a whole grain such as brown rice and a green leafy vegetable such as spinach, cabbage or lettuce, they provide the 20 amino acids needed to build human protein.
The best place to buy fresh coriander, limes, chillies and a host of other products is at the Asia Markets. There are several in Dublin and when I stand before the greens cabinet with serried ranks of Bok Choy, Thai Basil, Morning Glory etc., all I can see is their energy waiting to be converted into mine.
4 large tomatoes
½ red onion
1 handful coriander leaves
juice of a lime
salt and black pepper
Chop the tomatoes, red onion and coriander leaves finely. Juice the lime. Mix all in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour for the flavours to develop.
Add one chopped red chilli and its seeds to the above. Wash your hands, knife and chopping board immediately afterwards, in case you might touch your eyes. Make sure that the Ass-kickin’ Salsa is clearly identified in the fridge and on the table as those whose palates can’t handle hot chilli will have their meal ruined if they eat it by accident.