My friend and colleague Yung is an excellent cook, and always brings something exciting to our workplace's annual culinary competition. Recently she formed a small team to cater a vegetarian fundraising event; Michael and I gladly bought tickets to support a worthy cause and graze on what we knew would be a very good buffet. One of the highlights was a pot of rich, warmly spiced black beans. Yung is a generous chef who doesn't hesitate to share her kitchen secrets, in this case her homemade berbere.
Yung and her partner Danielle are so fond of this Eritrean spice mix that they find themselves roasting and grinding up a batch every couple of months! And I was the lucky recipient of a small jar of their blend two Christmases ago, so I had a little on hand. (Yung says they use a recipe by Cath Claringbold, published in Good Weekend a few years ago - we'll post it if we ever muster the courage to make our own stock.)
As for the beans, this is a recipe that Yung and Danielle have developed to suit their taste. It sure suits ours, too! Apparently you can make this with dried beans without any need to pre-cook or soak them, and Yung urges us all to use the full quantity of oil to really carry the flavour and build a rich texture.
We were so keen that we copied her moves the very next night, serving our beans with some Viva Vegan! silverbeet, wholemeal tortillas and fresh salad.
Berbere black beans
(slightly adapted from a recipe by our friends Yung & Danielle)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 green capsicum, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons berbere
2 x 400g cans black beans, drained
3 bay leaves
1 dried chipotle chilli (optional)
Place a large saucepan on medium-high heat and pour in the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, capsicum and a teaspoon of salt. Allow them to cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes. Stir in the garlic and berbere and then the black beans; pour over enough boiling water to cover the beans. Keep cooking the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and the sauce is thick and rich.
If you're using the chipotle chilli, soak it in hot water and add it around 15 minutes before you want to eat.