Tag Archives: Beans

Mexico revisited – Frijoles Refritas (Refried Beans)

26 Jun

The colonial city of Oaxaca was the standout city of all the cities which I visited during my travels in Mexico. The opportunity to explore its gastronomical delights was complimented by its backdrop of vibrant coloured homes, museums, colonial architecture, cobble stone streets, archaeological sites and flea markets.

Exceptional dishes were sampled on the streets and in restaurants of which many will remain etched in my memory for years to come. Tlayudas, memelas, mole (pronounced mo-lay), quesillo and hot chocolate made from freshly ground cacau beans to name a few. Oaxaca is also home to Mezcal a variation to tequila which in my opinion is an essential digestif and indispensable companion with the rich Oaxaqueña cuisine.

At a cantina in the heart of this city, I recall having the best refried beans to date. We were scouting for a late breakfast and whilst the cook was actually preparing almuerzo (lunch), she still greeted us with her warm hospitality and encouraged us to sample the buffet as the dishes were being laid out and garnished. The refried beans sat proud, clearly elevated and still bubbling in their earthenware dish, two servings and I couldn’t resist the temptation to ask. The key she told me was to use lard or bacon, especially if its smoked bacon. Up until that point I had avoided using lard for health reasons but with one mouthful, I began to understand why people would risk cardiovascular disease for these beans. Vegetarians may use ghee, butter or oil to saute the onions and the result will be similar but without the bacon flavour, and, of course meat free 😉

  • 200g of Pinto Beans or Black Beans (I used black because I was out of Pinto)
  • 1/2 white onion, diced finely
  • 100g of streaky bacon, diced finely
  • 4 Tablespoons of ghee, butter or lard

Soak beans in cold water for 24hours, then rinse, add to a heavy based pot or pressure cooker, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer until they are cooked. Do not add salt at this stage as it will retard the cooking of the beans and they’ll end up crunchy on the inside ;).

Saute onion in a non-stick or heavy based pan in at least 4 tablespoons of melted lard, butter or ghee, add a good pinch of salt to ensure onions don’t brown. Then add the streaky bacon, saute until the fat in the bacon has melted away and fused with the rest of the ingredients.

Once the beans are cooked, ladle into the pan straining off the water and mash with a wooden spoon. Repeat gradually until you have mashed up all the beans adding water from the pot until you get the desired consistency. Alternatively use a blender and add water gradually. Either way will yield tasty refried beans.

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Mexico revisited

17 Jun

When it comes to cooking (and other things too), I often wonder why I can’t do things half way, why it always has to be a multitude of dishes instead of the basic few. It probably has to do with two things: influences and experiences.

My upbringing has a lot to do with my influences, particularly in relation to offering the utmost level of hospitality. My family background is Lebanese and ever since I could remember sitting around a table, almost every meal was elaborate, varied and complete. Elaborate because dining is sacred, varied because not everyone likes the same thing and complete because one must tantalize with a starter, enjoy the main(s) and end off on a sweet note, dessert.

Experiences? Besides offering a satisfying meal, I feel it’s vital that I share my dining experiences with my guest and try to recreate with as much authenticity the dishes that I have indulged in. I have traveled to several countries and almost on every occasion emphasis has been paid to food ahead of sight seeing, and, souvenir shopping. From street food to fine dining, local markets to supermarkets, sipping on the local street beverages to the luxurious rooftop bars, I believe it’s a must that we delve deep into the gastronomical zone as it gives a greater understanding of the culture. It’s what makes us culturally different that is of great interest and food definitely forms a great part of people’s culture and must not be overlooked.

So what’s on Sunday’s menu? Pollo Pibil, Carne Cozida, Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, Corn Tortillas and Frijoles Refritas inspired of course by the streets of Mexico from Mexico City to Oaxaca and of course the Yucatan.

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