I’ve cooked Nigella's Cuban Black Beans many, many times since the book came out in 2015 because as well as tasting wonderful, they're easy to make and incredibly versatile. Chop a couple of onions, peppers and some garlic; the rest is just assembly. What you do need to do, however, is give these beans time. Either a couple of hours in a low oven or longer in a slow cooker. As a bonus, this is one of the few recipes I’ve come across where the dried beans don’t need to be pre-soaked. One small addition I've included is a tablespoon of chipotle paste. It gives the beans more depth and interest; I usually add at least two tablespoons but this does make them quite spicy so maybe start with a tablespoon.
Although these beans are a great side dish for any Mexican cuisine, I tend to make them as the main event. They make work lunches a treat when paired with rice and yoghurt and of the many meals I take to work and reheat, these beans attract the most compliments. One colleague swears they smell just like Dominos BBQ pizza but I wouldn’t know as I’m more of a Papa John’s woman.
My last batch of beans went into quesadillas along with cheddar cheese and some caramelised garlic yoghurt on the side; it was an absolute joy of a dinner. The garlic yoghurt is also from Simply Nigella and I’ve recently developed a mild obsession with it*.
For years I cooked these beans in the oven as I don’t own a slow cooker but a few weeks ago a colleague kindly lent one to me. To be honest, the beans taste similar to me regardless of how they’ve been cooked as I let them cool first before reheating them, which thickens and intensifies the sauce. When I’ve made the beans in a saucepan that goes in the oven I’ve browned the onions a little before adding the other ingredients. For the slow cooker method the raw ingredients go straight in - the recipe doesn’t mention any browning. After seven hours in the slow cooker I swear I could still taste the tang of raw onion. It wasn’t strong but it was there (a blob of ketchup helped a little). Once the beans cooled and were reheated they tasted like their normal selves but I would definitely recommend browning the onions first, regardless of how you cook them.
*To make garlic yoghurt, slice the top off a bulb of garlic (taking the very tips off the cloves and keeping the base intact) then wrap in foil and bake for around 40 minutes in a 200°C (180°C fan) oven (adjust the cooking time to suit the temperature of whatever you’re cooking; you don’t need to be precise). Like Nigella, I don’t turn on my oven just for the purpose of roasting garlic but if I’m cooking something else I’ll often throw in a bulb at the same time. Once the cloves have caramelised to a dark bronze colour, the whole bulb goes into the fridge where it keeps for a week and the squidgy cloves can be added to soups, stews, or, my favourite by quite some way, Greek yoghurt. 400g of Greek yoghurt, a teaspoon of sea salt flakes and 5-6 roasted garlic cloves amounts to a beautiful sauce that reminds me of the yoghurt you get in a really good kebab shop.
- 2 onions, chopped (any colour)
- 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 peppers, diced (any colour)
- 500g dried black turtle beans
- 1 fresh red chilli, chopped
- 2 tbs cumin seeds
- 1 tbs chipotle paste (More if you like spice)
- Black pepper
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 litre water
- Slow cooker: Brown 2 chopped onions in a pan for around 5-10 minutes then add to a slow cooker along with 6 chopped cloves of garlic, 2 diced peppers, 500g dried black beans, a chopped red chilli, 2 tablespoons of cumin seeds, a tablespoon of chipotle paste, a pinch of black pepper, 2 fresh bay leaves and a litre of water.
- Cook for 6-8 hours until the beans are soft then add salt to taste.
- Leave to stand for half an hour or, if you can, allow to cool then reheat to eat.
- Oven: Preheat your oven to 150°C (130°C fan).
- Brown 2 chopped onions and 6 chopped cloves of garlic for around 5-10 minutes in a lidded saucepan that will fit into your oven. Add 2 diced peppers, 500g dried black beans, a chopped red chilli, 2 tablespoons of cumin seeds, a tablespoon of chipotle paste, a pinch of black pepper and 2 fresh bay leaves to the pan. Add enough water to cover the ingredients by 3cm then clamp the lid on the pan and place in the oven for 2 hours.
- If you can, check on the beans half way through, giving them a stir and adding more water if the level has fallen below the beans, but you can just leave them to cook and they should be fine.
- When the beans are cooked, salt to taste then leave to stand for half an hour or, if you can, allow to cool then reheat to eat.