Mexican Black Bean Broth with Fresh White Cheese, Chili Salsa and Coriander

I had two inexpensive meals today, one at home, one in a restaurant.

For a really late and quite stressed 5pm lunch eaten after queuing at the bank and withdrawing Olivia Laing’s ‘The Lonely City’ from Peckham Library (the beginning of the day’s improvement), I ate a quarter-pounder with cheese and fries at the Peckham branch of McDonald’s among primary school kids letting off steam. It was good, I felt better afterwards.

I wanted the earthy thrum of long-simmered beans later. The dried variety we had at home were black beans, so I looked up a Diana Kennedy recipe for ‘Frijoles de Olla’ (”pot” beans) in The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, and cooked a marginally modified version, with changed quantities and a few extras to make it a meal. A handful of dried beans, a lump of fat, an onion and a kettle-ful of boiling water do not initially seem to offer great hope of gustatory satisfaction. However, after ten minutes on the hob, the pot wafted promising allium, nutty smells into the flat. The soft sweet cheese, gently, savoury broth and odd fresh spike of lime and chili were very good together.

You can buy epazote, the musky mexican herb, online – i’ve attached a link to the recipe.

Black Bean Broth

250g dried black beans

1.5 litres boiling water

1 onion, roughly chopped

a piece of pork fat or bacon fat – two tablespoons’ worth

2 tablespoons of epazote leaves, dried or fresh

salt, to taste

Salsa – this makes a lot, put the rest in a sealed jar in the fridge, where it will keep for a few weeks, or freeze. Also eat with grilled fish, or fried eggs, or with beans in tortillas.

3 green chillis –  deseeded

2 red chillis – deseeded

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 cup of water

juice of 4 limes

a few good pinches of salt, to taste

Garnish

a few tablespoons of coriander leaves

a fresh, slightly white cheese like ricotta for convenience, or queso blanco if you have access to it

How to make:

Add all of the soup ingredients except the epazote and salt to a large pot, bring to the boil, then simmer with a lid on for 2 hours or until the beans are soft. Then add the epazote and a good amount of salt and simmer for a further 30 minutes.

Make the salsa:

Blitz up or finely chop and mix all of the ingredients. Season to taste with salt.

Serve:

Ladle the soupy beans into a bowl. Crumble some soft white cheese on top, garnish with fresh coriander and sparingly daub some salsa on top *beware, it’s hot*.

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