Moors and Christians

Black Beans and Rice

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    4

    as a main course

Appears in

Based on Cuba’s national dish, a hearty mix of crisp nuggets of pork, black beans, green pepper and chillies on a bed of snowy white rice. Pepper is used in a relatively small amount here, but this is yet another dish where it makes a real difference. A few cracked peppercorns and a slick of fruity olive oil on the beans imparts an unmistakable bright warm flavour.

Despite the many ingredients, this is not difficult to make. The bean mixture improves with reheating so can be made a day ahead.

Ingredients

  • black beans 200 g/7 oz, soaked for several hours
  • onion ½ small
  • garlic cloves 2, peeled and left whole
  • fresh bay leaf 1
  • oregano or thyme 1–2 sprigs
  • tomato purée 2 tsp
  • red wine vinegar 1 tsp
  • sugar ½ tsp
  • freshly ground black pepper ½ tsp
  • salt to taste
  • long-grain white rice 300 g/10½ oz

For the Sofrito

  • vegetable oil 1 tbsp
  • salt pork or smoked pancetta 25 g/1 oz, diced
  • belly pork 50 g/ oz, diced
  • onion 1 small, chopped
  • garlic clove 1 large, finely chopped
  • green pepper ½, deseeded and diced
  • red or green chillies ½–1, deseeded and diced
  • dried oregano ½ tsp
  • cumin seeds ½ tsp, crushed

To Garnish

  • spring onions 3, green parts included, chopped
  • extra-virgin olive oil or Olio Santo
  • black peppercorns ½ tsp, crushed and sieved

Method

Drain the beans and put in a saucepan with the onion, garlic, bay leaf and oregano sprigs. Add plenty of water to cover, then bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat slightly, then simmer briskly for 30–40 minutes or until the beans are tender but not disintegrating. Add more water if necessary.

While the beans are simmering away, you can get on with cooking the sofrito. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the two kinds of pork and sizzle until the fat starts to flow. Add the remaining ingredients and cook gently over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until soft.

Drain the beans, reserving the liquid. Fish out the herbs and onion, mash the beans a little, then add them to the sofrito. Stir in the tomato purée, vinegar, sugar and freshly ground black pepper. Season with salt to taste, bearing in mind the saltiness of the pork.

Add about 300ml/½ pint of the bean cooking water to the mashed bean mixture. Cook, partially-covered, for 20–30 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft and thickened.

Meanwhile, put the rice in a pan and cover with water to the depth of your thumb nail. Add ½ teaspoon of salt, cover tightly and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to very low and cook for 10–15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Tip into a warm shallow serving dish and fluff with a fork.

Check the bean mixture and add more oregano, vinegar, cumin and salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Pile the beans on top of the rice and strew with chopped spring onions. Dribble with extra-virgin olive oil, then some crushed and sieved peppercorns.

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