17 April 2017

Vegetarianism and our favourite black bean tacoes

You can't trundle along the green living route very far before you bang into vegetarianism and its hard-core cousin veganism. Sheep and cattle burp out potent greenhouse gases, so we need fewer of them, not more.

But perhaps something that's good for the planet is bad for us personally? The two things that have swayed me most to believe that this is not the case is the Blue Zones research, and (far more subjectively) Jane Goodall. She's vegetarian, in her 80s, sharp as a tack and travels something like 300 days a year to raise environmental awareness. If that kind of mental alertness and physical stamina comes with vegetarianism, I'll take it, thanks.

The beautiful simplicity of a pot of soaking beans.


The family problem

For many of us, the decision doesn't lie fully with us, because we eat as part of a family. The key to persuading others is finding vegeterian meals they like. I haven't found enough of these meals yet, so we are still eating red meat about once a week, chicken once or twice, and fish once.

But here is our favourite vegetarian meal - in fact it is my thirteen-year-old's favourite meal of any that I cook! He loves to have leftovers on rice for breakfast. I have them for lunch. Yum.

Over Easter I made this for extended family. My 10-year-old nephew ate FIVE tacoes, and kept asking if there was still more meat. He couldn't believe it was all beans!

You can use tinned black beans, but it's much cheaper to buy the dry ones from the Bin Inn.

Some key ingredients.

Black Bean Tacoes 

Feeds four, at least.

Black bean mixture (this is the main event)
2 cups of dried black turtle beans, soaked overnight and rinsed twice (I admit I don't measure the quantity these, but the recipe is forgiving)
1 chopped onion
1 Tblsp Tio Pablo Mayan Gold mexican seasoning mix (optional, but good... add at least double the cumin and oregano if you don't have this)
2 tsp cumin
3 tsp oregano
1 tin chopped tomatoes in juice
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
2 Tblsp La Morena chipotle sauce*  (optional, but really adds something extra)
chilli to taste (chopped fresh chilli, or dried powder)
salt & pepper

Gently fry the onion in olive oil until soft.
Add the spices and fry for a minute or two.
Add remaining ingredients apart from salt (add this once the beans are soft).
Add water to cover the beans if they are uncovered.
Cover the pot and simmer for about two hours (longer is good). Ensure the beans are covered with liquid by adding more water if necessary. They need to be so soft that you can squash them against the roof of your mouth with your tongue. The mixture shouldn't look like beans floating in liquid, but a thickened, stew-like mess of filling deliciousness. If it's too wet, boil it with the lid off for a while to reduce it.

Mmmm, what's that smell?
(Don't worry about what it looks like!)

Check that the flavour is full and spicy. Add more of what you need - sufficient spices are the key to this.

Don't worry that the beans are not cooked before you start! Cooking them this way means that as they cook they absorb all these wonderful flavours. It does NOT mean you will be crippled with flatulence.

Serve with guacamole, shredded lettuce, grated carrot and grated cheese. Each person should stuff these goodies, along with the bean mixture, into either their taco shells (baked for 5 minutes to warm and crisp them) or tortillas (home made ones are awesomely cheap and miles better than bought ones, but do take a while to prepare). Also very good with rice.


* Available from some supermarkets and the Tio Pablo website.

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