I’ve been having more than a few Mexican moments lately with my chocolate and chilli experiments and I’ve also cooked several Mexican meals. The first was for a pot-luck dinner for eight in our house when some of the Boyfriend’s college friends and their wives were about. This was only arranged that morning and when the Boyfriend asked what we should cook, I figured that it was the perfect time to try Nigella’s recipe for Cornbread-Topped Chilli.
It’s been years since I had a good chilli – I think I may have overdosed on my Tipperary friend’s ever-present saucepan of chilli con carne while in college (he used to cook it at the start of the week and just leave it on the cooker, adding extra veg and beans as the mood took him!) – but this chilli had the intriguing addition of cocoa powder and I just couldn’t resist the idea of another chocolate/chilli combination!
Served with tortilla chips, guacamole, salsa and sour cream this was a perfect dish for a crowd. The most of the meal is presented in one cooking dish, topped by a glorious browned wodge of cornbread. Unfortunately I forgot to sprinkle the cheese on the cornbread before I cooked it but it still tasted very good, especially the part which had soaked up some of the savoury juices from the chilli. You’ll find the recipe for that in Nigella’s Feast.
A week later, seeing the glut of pinto beans in my pantry, I determined to make some Mexican Beans. These fulfil all the criteria that I demand of my most used recipes – that they be easy to make, can be used in different ways and, most of all, taste fantastic. After soaking the pinto beans overnight, you just throw them in a large saucepan with chilli, garlic, onions, spices and some chopped bacon. Simmer until cooked and then serve what ever way you want. I’ve used these to fill tortilla wraps, scattered cheese over and baked them in the oven until they were all all bubbling and warm; as the base for Ruth’s Refried Beans; as the bean component in nachos; and, with cornbread, as a soup – the original idea of the recipe! This quantity makes a large batch but it is well worth your while cooking plenty and freezing some to use at a later date.
Pinto beans – 500g
Streaky bacon – 100g, chopped
Red chilli – 2, seeded and chopped
Garlic – 2 cloves, chopped
Onion – 1, chopped
Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon, roasted briefly in a heavy-based pan
Salt – 1 tablespoon
Rinse and soak the pinto beans overnight. Rinse again and place in a large pot with the bacon, chilli, garlic, onion and cumin seeds. Add enough water to cover the beans by 1½ inches and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are tender, approximately 2 hours. Add the salt and simmer for another 40 minutes until the beans are tender and the cooking liquid has thickened somewhat.