Brazilian Black Bean Stew
Beans and rice are the main staple of the Brazilian diet – you will find them on everyone’s table, rich or poor, day in, day out. I grew up on this combination and it is the first food I ask for when I go home to see my parents.
We use two types of beans, either pinto (brown) or black beans. Everyone has their favourite, and mine has always been the black ones. We use these on one of our most famous national dishes, feijoada – a very elaborate pork stew, served with a myriad of side dishes and heavy as a tonne of bricks. No wonder we usually serve it at Saturday lunch time!
However, in our daily life, we make it a much lighter plant-based affair. Traditionally, we would use dry beans, but I tend to do a cheat version with canned beans, which are easily found in UK supermarkets.
You can be very elaborate with your seasoning, and each household would have a “secret ingredient”. I was very lucky to have a talented chef friend and fellow expat Brazilian, Daniela, share hers with me. And I have been given the green light to share it here with you . . .
I am keeping this recipe simple and straightforward by using pre-cooked beans. If you would like to use dry beans, soak them overnight. Even then, they will take up to 1 hour of cooking before seasoning. I usually add a couple of garlic cloves and a bay leaf, but no salt – that will harden the skin and makes the cooking time much longer. You want the beans to reach that firm texture of canned beans, and then season them.
Chop the onion and garlic and fry them at a medium heat until they are translucent; this will take about 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and chilli, for another 10 minutes. You want them to be falling apart. Add some cooked beans and their liquid to this mixture, mashing the bean slightly as you do it – this will add body to the final stew/soup. After you have incorporated the cooked beans, add the rest of them with the bay leaf and water. You will cook that down for another 10-15 minutes, according to how thick you want your stew. To finish, stir in the Dijon mustard and season to taste. If you have some at hand, miso would make a great substitute for the mustard.
In Brazil, we usually serve this with toasted cassava flour and fermented hot sauce on top – or with rice and some fermented green salsa!