By Simone Riddle
If you intend to spend any time in Guatemala there are two things you need to be able to enjoy eating: tortillas and beans. I love living in Guatemala because I can legitimately eat the same thing for breakfast and for dinner and no one will judge me. Nothing can unite a house, a family, friends and coworkers like a ‘desayuno tipico’ and my fondest memories are of a Sunday morning sharing platefuls of scrambled eggs, beans, queso fresco and endless cups of Guatemalan coffee.
Any of those that know me know that I have an incomparable love of beans, some might say it is an obsession. You would think after four years I would now be bored of tortillas and beans but no. I can go through between 1lb and 2lbs of black beans in a week, and I would go as far to say I can cook them better than most gringos in this city.
You can easily save yourself money by cooking black beans from scratch and it’s easier than you think!
NOTE: you will need a pressure cooker for this recipe. Borrow one from your host family, or club together to buy one collectively, they save money, gas and cooking time.
Carefully pour a one-pound packet of beans into a pan, checking for small stones that sometimes are thrown in for free (more likely if you buy these from the market). These will break your teeth, ask Kevin from Yoga House.
If you see beans with hole in them, throw these away. Sorting through beans only need take a couple of minutes and I find it quite therapeutic while saving on dentist bills.
Add the sorted beans to the pressure cooker and cover with water (from the tap is fine) to cover the beans by about 2 inches.
Peel and chop an onion into two and add both pieces to the pot.
Close the pan and put over a high heat. Once the cooker is whistling loudly (which will take around 5-10 minutes) put on a timer for 35 minutes.
After 35 minutes turn the heat off and leave until it’s stopped making a noise (that means the steam has escaped and it’s safe to try and open). To speed this process up carefully take the pan over to the sink and run water the pan under water for a couple of minutes. Lift up the top on the pressure cooker to check that all the steam has come out (don’t burn yourself). Now try opening the pan. If it doesn’t open easily it means there’s still steam in the pan and you need to hold up the top again.
Open carefully and try the beans with a fork to see if they are soft. If they are hard you may need to cook them for another 5 minutes (from whistling point) with extra water. If they are soft enough you can begin the next step.
In another large pan heat up enough oil so that it comes up to about a 1cm up the side.
You need more oil than you think to keep the beans fresher for longer.
Once the oil is hot, add a chopped small onion and fry stirring over a low heat for around 5-10 minutes until the onion is soft.
Add all the beans and enough water to almost cover them. Mix, cover and simmer for 15-20mins. Stirring now and again. When the oil begins to combine with the beans they will become nice and creamy, at which point they are ready to serve!
Add salt to taste. If you’re a true chapin that’s about a tablespoon!