It’s 2014. I’m living in London, working as part of a consultancy job for a high-street chain of popular restaurants. The night is frenzied; sixteen or seventeen dishes strewn across the table, on high chairs, the coffee table, cooling on the front doorstep. I scrawl notes on yellow index cards in slopey italics, spattering them with oil and paprika and three kinds of chilli, burning one at the edges in my reckless enthusiasm. It’s my first big job of this nature, and I’m a nameless entity, a silent partner, but my ideas are manifested before my eyes, and if I do well, they’ll end up on dinner plates across the nation. Unusually for me, I’m not nervous. I’m in my element, creating food to share, and for appraisal. I’m desperately lonely in London, forty miles from my friends and family, invisible on the pavements, unknown at the local pubs. I just want someone to tell me I did well, and so, I work through the night, testing and tasting and tweaking and writing, until I can do no more.
The original had shredded chicken folded through at the end; you can do this if you like, but I don’t feel it’s necessary. You can eat this as a hearty soup, reduce it down for a casserole, have it cold in tortilla wraps, on toast, in toasted sandwiches with lashings of cheese, on top of a jacket potato, or any other way you see fit.
First peel and finely slice your onions and pop into a large saucepan, preferably one with a heavy bottom. Peel the garlic and halve the cloves lengthways, then add them to the pan. Pour over the oil and place on a low heat. Cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion and garlic start to soften.
Drain and thoroughly rinse both cans of beans, and tip into the pan. Pour over the chopped tomatoes, then the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring well. Add the peri peri sauce, stir again, and cook for 40 minutes, until the beans are very soft and falling apart and the liquid has reduced by a third. Eat immediately, or allow to cool completely and chill until needed.
This keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days and just improves the longer it’s left there – although not for longer than 3 days, as it starts to deteriorate after that. To keep it longer, cool completely, then pop it in the freezer. To microwave from frozen in an 800W oven, microwave on High for 4 minutes, stir and leave to stand for a minute, then microwave on High for 4 minutes more. You may need to adjust the timings to suit your microwave, so these are approximate.
© Jack Monroe, 2020