Beans are such a nutritious and delicious ingredient and one of the foundations of the Mexican diet. Black beans are a favourite of mine, and of my children, who order these quesadillas every time they come to Wahaca. Here is the recipe, which provides a simple, affordable, healthy supper that will have even the fussiest eaters asking for more….
Feeds 4-6 with leftover beans
30g butter plus 3 tbsp oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1-2 tsp chipotle puree or a small dried chilli, crumbled (optional)
A small bunch of thyme, shredded
A bunch of fresh coriander
Flaky salt and black pepper
400g grated cheese (I like to use a mix of feta, cheddar, Lancashire, mozzarella, or any other hard cheese I have in the fridge – it’s a great way to use up leftover bits and pieces!)
To cook the beans
300g dried black beans (or double the quantity so that you have a stash for the freezer)
4 garlic cloves, bashed with a rolling pin
A few bay leaves (optional)
Corn or flour tortillas
Home-made salsa (recipe below)
Avocados or guacamole
Soak the beans overnight to reduce the cooking time. Once soaked, rinse the beans in cold water and drain.
Put the beans in a large pan and cover by at least four inches of cold water. Add the garlic cloves and bay leaves and bring the water to the boil and then simmer the beans until tender.
Drain the beans reserving the cooking liquid. Finely chop the coriander stalks and save the leaves for later.
Heat the fats in a heavy-bottomed pan and when it is gently foaming add the onion, thyme and coriander and season generously with at least half a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Sweat the onion until it is soft and translucent, about 7-8 minutes then add the garlic and chilli, if using. This depends a lot on your children – mine don’t mind a touch of spice.
Once the onions are soft add the beans and cook for another ten minutes, turning down the heat after a few minutes and adding enough of the cooking liquid you saved to have a lovely, soft consistency.
Blitz the bean mixture a little to create a rough, chunky bean paste, or mash them a little with a potato masher. Taste and season.
Heat a large, wide frying pan and add tortillas. Sprinkle one half with cheese and top with the beans. Sprinkle with a little coriander and close shut. Cook for a few minutes a side until the cheese has melted and the outsides are toasted.
Serve with salsa, guacamole, a lovely salad or some steamed green vegetables.
If you can’t find black beans use any kind you have: borlotti, pinto, flor de mayo or cannellini would all work. The supermarkets now sell good quality cooked black beans in cartons; they will not have the same flavour and texture as your own home made ones but they do cut out a cooking step! If you children love meat consider adding some diced chorizo to the quesadillas.
Roast tomato salsa
This is an easy, quick and really simple salsa, the likes of which grace every cantina table across Mexico. Once you have a feel for how to roast vegetables on a dry griddle as I have done in this recipe, experiment with different chillies depending on your taste and how hot you dare to go.
4 plum tomatoes
1 large Jalapeno chilli
2 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
Pinch of salt
¼ onion, chopped and rinsed under cold water
1 large tbsp of chopped coriander
Juice of half a lime
Heat a large heavy based frying pan over a high heat. Place the tomatoes, the garlic and the chilli in the dry frying pan and dry roast until they are blackened, blistered and soft. The tomatoes will take a little longer so remove the garlic and chilli first, as they are cooked (about 5-10 minutes).
Remove the stem from the chilli and the skin from the garlic and put both in a pestle and mortar. Pound to a paste.
Add the tomatoes and work them into the chilli.
Add the coriander, onion and lime juice. Taste and check for seasoning.
Note: This can all be done in a food processor but you will lose the lovely rough consistency that you get with the pestle and mortar.