Mr Benz’s Blindingly Good Beans – Twisted No.2

I think I might have mentioned before that I don’t particularly like British baked beans; (apart from my soup), but these Jamaican style beans I will eat voluntarily.

Ingredients

For every can of the cheapest beans going – should be about 23p each

1 small onion

1-2 tomatoes

1-2 cloves of garlic

Thyme, pref fresh, but dried if you live long distance far

Scotch bonnet chilli, a few slices – you could use other chillies, but scotch bonnet has an amazing extra special flavour.

1 teaspoon oil

Salt+ coarse ground pepper optional

Method

Fry onion over medium heat in oil. When onion begins to soften, add garlic and chilli, chopped –then after a minute or so, add the tomatoes and thyme. When fragrant and tomatoes softened but not too soft!..add the can of beans and cook out for 4-5 minutes. Done

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Poor Ting Pepperpot

So, when I first met Mr.Benz (I will stop talking about him soon, but it’s just that this next recipe is both Jamaican and vegan), if he came to visit when I was cooking something vegetarian, he’d say things like ‘poor ting’ and give me a charitable look and be very solicitous, offering to buy me a beer or lend me a fiver – clearly, this was back in the day, when he was still working hard to impress me – but he just couldn’t, wouldn’t grasp the fact that a person can choose to eat vegetables out of choice not poverty – whatever – I don’t mean to sound like a hypocrite…I do appreciate that if you grew up as the youngest child of 6 in a working class single parent family where money obviously didn’t rain down like manna from heaven, as an adult meat or fish could easily become a lifetime fixation – I got brought up in an adopted family as an only child and they were so class obsessed that they thought  ‘one should eat meat three times a day, if one was anyone’, even though there was often not enough cash around for bills, school uniform, rent etc…and I blatantly ‘fess up to still liking and consuming dead flesh myself, albeit just once a week/occasionally  – but I love my veg, love love love my veg.

Like I said….whatever……… 🙂

 All the same, I’d love to see his face if he knew I was making this pepperpot with weeds.

 Poor poor ting…

…which is where this version got its name 😉

 Anyway, recipe time.

 So, a few things first – 1, pepperpot soup has many, many varieties, evolutions and re-inventions from Nigeria and West Africa, through the Caribbean and parts of South America up to Philadelphia – I was quite surprised about the Phili link, but when you think about it, it maps human footprints across the horrid history of the slave trade 😦 – my recipe, which I first learnt from a book by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz, r.i.p. is a Jamaican version, although it’s so long since I owned her book, I may have corrupted it – she is/was generally regarded by other food writers as an excellent recipe writer, so any ‘uck fups’ below are all my own <:-0 – that said, my version is nice enough for me to have been cooking it for the past 15 years or more.

2, Callaloo, in most of the Caribbean, refers to the leaf of dasheen or taro (largest of the edible Colocasia family) but in Jamaica it means green leaf amaranth – which is what I’m substituting dead nettle leaves for – you can buy/grow green amaranth in the UK, but not this early in the year unless it’s imported, and then it’s expensive… otherwise, and in other parts of the world, you could substitute spinach, collard greens or whatever your local version is.

3, it’s called ‘soup’, but really it’s a one pot dinner with a lot of sauce and attitude – robust only begins to describe it.

 

Loads of other recipes you’ll find in books and blogs say it can be made with flesh, fish or fowl as a foundation, but the signature flavours come from the marriage of thyme, coconut, callaloo and scotch bonnet chilli and if you have a reasonable enough variety of nice vegetables, I challenge any carnivore living to complain.

 

Ingredients for 4, 40 minutes – this time round I made a massive pot (4 litres, enough for a small army), but if you have equal amounts of your chosen leaf to each of all the starch/major veg, and 1 part thick coconut milk to 5 parts water, then you can scale it up or down without going too far wrong – adjusting onion/thyme/chilli/seasoning notwithstanding.

 

So, for 4

For ‘Spinner’ dumplings – completely optional

1 part water to 2 parts plain flour, pinch of salt – and some ppl add half a pinch of sugar – mix into a dough and set aside. A teacup’s worth of water and 2 of flour would be more than adequate for 4 ppl.

For the soup

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

2 onions, chopped

Garlic (optional)

2 scallion/fat spring onion (optional)

500g tops of white dead nettles/ amaranth- callaloo/ greens of choice, washed, picked over and hand shredded or roughly chopped – if your green of choice is stinging nettles, then wash and wilt or blanch them separately first, to get rid of the sting bit

1 Scotch Bonnet chilli or to taste

3-4 decent sized sprigs of fresh thyme

1 can thick coconut milk or 4 cm x 4 cm block of creamed coconut or equivalent.

Any or all of the followingchoose at least 3-4 starch veg and 2 pumpkin/other vegetables for texture and interest

2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large (3 cm x 3cm ish) chunks

2 eddoes, peeled and quartered (optional)

2 green bananas, washed, ends trimmed, a knife run down the skin so it splits open when it cooks and chopped into 4-5 cm lengths (optional)

500g yellow or white yam, cubed like the potato (optional)

Tan skin, orange flesh sweet potato, ditto

Purple skin, white flesh sweet potato, ditto – n.b. when you peel this it needs to go straight into acid water, ‘cos it will discolour really quickly.

1 cho cho/chayote, ditto peeled and seed removed,

,500g West Indian pumpkin or Kaboucha or Butternut squash, – any dense fleshed kind will do, ditto, peeled and seeds removed

Per person, 4-5 whole small okra or fresh green string beans if you can’t find okra.

Salt to taste

2 ½ -3 litres of water or enough to cover the vegetables comfortably..

 

I used potato, eddoes, banana, sweet potato – both kinds, butternut and okra for mine.

 

Method

In a large pan, sweat onions, garlic, scallions for a couple of minutes, add greens and a pinch of salt and wilt, add chilli – I bunged in a whole one, uncut, but it’s a matter of taste/tolerance – and thyme as whole sprigs. Add coconut milk/cream and water. Add potato and bring to the boil, then reduce to an active simmer – after 10 mins, add the rest of the vegetables, return to a simmer and cook for a further 10 mins, then, pinching off a small amount of dough, roll between the palms of your hands to make a small oblong about the size of the okra to form a flour dumpling – do this until the dough mixture is used up – plop them in the soup as you go. Cook for a further 15 minutes – and it’s done. Check that the veg are tender with a knife – the potato will usually take the longest if you cut everything the same size. Check for seasoning. Remove thyme twigs – the leaves will have fallen off into the soup. Remove whole chilli – if you like things hot, then remove stem from chilli and return it to the soup, mashing it against the side of the pan with a spoon. If you have used beans instead of okra, they will need less cooking so maybe add them 5 minutes before the end.

 I generally use coconut cream which you can buy in a block – TRS or Dunns River – there’s lots of brands, because it keeps for ages without going off– coconut milk from a can goes off in a few days if you don’t use it all up, which is a pain for a single person 😦 – the way to check if it’s thick or thin when you buy it is to shake the can – if you can hear liquid moving, it’s probably thin, although it depends on how warm it is/the weather. In the UK, Vitasoy brand from lidl is thick, Island Sun, widely available is medium to thin, again there are loads of brands. You can also buy coconut milk powder – but read the ingredients list, because some brands have starch and sugar in them – the best brand I know is Santan, from Malaysia, often found in Chinese or Vietnamese stores.

Nothing special, but quick, cheap and cheerful – fish version

Over the years, I have been fed or I’ve cooked many, many variations of this – with sardines, with pilchards, with the little smoked African dried prawns and black eye beans or any of the vegan versions in the last post – and the recipe is always basically the same as in the last post…and they all definitely improve a can of fish.
However, there was an West African bloke who lived in the hostel that I stayed in for 3 months while I was waiting to get re-housed, who told Mr Benz about one particular brand of canned smoked herring, and we both agree it is ‘de bes’ ever…it even comes in enough tomato and vegetable sauce of its own to warrant leaving out making a separate tomato sauce.

Ingredients serves 2 takes 10-15 minutes
1 can petri brand smoked herring in tomato sauce – not the one in tomato cream £1.20 in Lidl – I have no idea if any other companies make the same thing –
1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3-4 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
Scotch Bonnet/Habanero to your level of chilli heat
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method
Gently fry the onion in the oil until soft and translucent, add garlic and chilli, fry for 1 minute, then add tomatoes and cook until they begin to soften. Add fish and sauce, and swill the can out with water, adding the water to the pan. Gently break up the fish, bring up to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Serve with carbohydrate of choice – potatoes or soft polenta or semolina are my favorites.

Nothing special, but quick, cheap and cheerful – vegan version

As I promised at the beginning, I am putting up a vegan version first of anything I cook that isn’t – last thursday week, my ex – who I shall call Mr. Benz, because he drives me round several bends on a regular basis 😉 came to see me in a proper moany moany mood, so I gave him a version of a ‘pilchards’ dinner, because I know he likes it – when he’s in a grump, he is capable of seeing vegetables as a disrespectful insult and on a bad day, he has a huge capacity for being unreasonable (one of the many reasons we are no longer together and probably never should have been in the first place)…on a good day he is sweetness and light and a really good laugh – that’s the opposite sex for you – whichever gender you are. To be fair to the man, he’s just started work in a new job after being unemployed for ages and he hasn’t been paid yet, and he’d run out of money and tobacco and electricity – enough to make anyone irritable.
Anyway, this is basically a rich tomato and onion sauce with chilli and something else – traditionally, a can of fish. Jamaicans tend to serve it with potatoes, and West Africans quite often have it with semolina – polenta, rice or even pasta would also be fine.
Vegan version
To make – take one portion of really red tomato sauce made with onion
Add some scotch bonnet chilli (habanero) – with caution – they are extremely hot, but they also have a unique fruity flavour,
and any or all of the following: pre cooked black eye beans (sometimes called black eye peas), aubergine cut into 1 cm cubes and fried separately – aubergine absorbs loads of oil when you fry it – but by the time the cubes are golden brown on the outside, the oil starts to come back out again – you can gently squeeze the cubes with the back of a spoon to aid this process, before you add to the sauce, and/or char grilled red pepper/capsicum.
To char grill a pepper, put the whole thing directly onto a gas burner and turn as the skin blackens and blisters until it is black all over – put under cold running water and peel away charred skin. Remove stalk, seeds and the pale coloured ribs on the inside, then chop or tear into strips.
The recipe I’m posting next uses smoked herring – for a vegan smoky version you could add smoked garlic powder or some chipotle chilli that you’ve pre soaked in hot water for 10 minutes – I got given small packs of both of these for Christmas, made by a company called ‘Seasoned Pioneers’ – I think Sainsbury’s sells the range – if you haven’t got any, ‘cos they are dead good but a bit pricy, you could add some smoky bbq sauce….there also used to be something called ‘liquid smoke’ in a bottle, but I haven’t seen it for a few years.