I can’t remember how I discovered chipotle paste many years ago but, just like with oyster sauce, my cupboard and fridge have contained multiple jars ever since. At one point it seemed to disappear and I went from supermarket to supermarket in a state of mild panic because I wanted to make Nigella’s Cuban Black Beans and although chipotle paste isn’t specified in the original recipe, to me, it’s essential - it elevates the beans from good to truly great, giving them depth and smokiness.
I’m pretty sure all of the major supermarkets stock some form of chipotle paste. A small jar costs around £1.50 and once opened lasts for at least a month in the fridge but the Tesco version is cheaper at £1.25 and has an eight week shelf life. A little goes a long way and a tablespoon breathes life into chillies, beans or stews, or, for a quick, delicious sauce to top tacos, burritos, quesadillas or nachos, combine half a teaspoon with garlic, lime juice and mayonnaise or yoghurt.
It’s a great ingredient to reach for if you’ve cooked a dish and it’s lacking… something. That’s what happened with the Cuban Black Beans; after three hours in the oven and liberal seasoning they weren’t quite what I’d hoped for. Chipotle paste came to the rescue like a mysterious, smouldering, spicy hero and single handedly turned the beans into what’s now one of my most cooked, all-time favourite dishes.