Thursday, January 23, 2014

Blackeye Bean Salsa

Blackeye beans, sometimes called peas, indeed sometimes called cow peas, also known as frijoles castilla in Spain, haricot cornille in France, find them as schwarze-augen-bohnen in Germany, zwartoogbonen in Holland while the Italians call them fagioli con l'occhio nero. They are a fabby little dried bean, very cheap to buy, and they have the most wonderful smell of fresh peas when you open the packet. They need to be soaked overnight before cooking but they don't disappoint. They swell to about twice their size and, once cooked, still have a lovely taste of fresh peas and a lighter texture than their more popular shelf mates like chick peas and cannelini beans. Yet, in the UK at least, they are not much loved or used.

A little while before Christmas my sister came to visit after spending a week at a cookery school in Portugal. Eager to share some of the lovely dishes she had learnt she offered to cook dinner one night - that idea got a big yes from me.

She created an amazing feast including, memorably, marinated pork fillet with migas and chorizo topped with fresh oranges and lemon, a gorgeous soup with spinach and fresh cheese and a sublime salad of tuna with blackeye beans. My small contribution - it was the man that had to clear up the bombsite that was the kitchen post supper ! - was to soak and cook some dried blackeye beans. Unsure how much would be needed I did a serious quantity and found there were many left. Popped them in the freezer for another day.

And now I am on a mission to clear the freezer - in part because it needs defrosting and in part because it is the frozen version of the cupboard under the stairs. Stuff goes in and never comes out! I have been good - see last week - but it is something I found remarkably difficult to do. My preference is always to start with a plan and then shop from there, and this requires me to see what's there and then make a plan. Challenging! I also have pork chops in the freezer - still ^o^ - and had been thinking the beans would make a good salad to go with them for a quick midweek meal. Just not really sure what kind of salad.

I googled idly and rejected most things I found till  simply recipes came up - a really interesting food blog I'd not come across. Elise made a salsa using beans which sounded most fine. I didn't have cooked green chillies or roasted poblanos, it's true but I was much taken with the principle of mixing different types of chillies / peppers as a base of many textures and variegating the flavour with coriander and onion. What I did have was a lovely bunch of dried oregano that my sister had brought from Portugal and it was the inclusion of a teaspoon in the dressing that really sold me on this recipe. I used (some of) the varieties of peppers I had to hand and was seriously delighted with the result. Great with sausages and roasted onion and green bean salad as wll as in lunchboxes, this was a proper winter treat but I imagine too it would make a great salad with barbecue. Bring on the sunshine!

Blackeye Bean Salsa

Best made an hour or so before eating it keeps really well for a few days in the fridge

About 4 cups of cooked blackeye beans/peas or 2 400g tins, drained and well rinsed
4 or 5 small hot pickled peppers, I used some I brought back from Hungary that are pretty to look at and HOT to eat
4 or 5 roasted peppers - I used some from a jar of roasted piquillo peppersbut you could as well roast your own from fresh
1 large fresh red pepper or a dozen or so tiny ones
1 bunch of spring onions
1 bunch of coriander, thoroughly washed

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Large pinch of ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the beans into a large bowl. Chop the pickled hot peppers very finely and add to the bowl. Deseed and chop the roasted peppers into 2cm squares and add to the bowl. Deseed the fresh pepper/s and chop to roughly the size of the beans and add to the bowl. Cut the spring onions into thinnish rings, white and green parts, and - you guessed it - add to the bowl. Strip the leaves from the coriander stalks but do keep the fine stalks. Chop roughly and add to the bowl. Put all the ingredients for the dressing into a screwtop jar and shake vigourously till emulsified. Tip over the bowl of bits and toss well.

Leave for an hour or so to develop the flavours.

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