Perhaps I jinxed things with overzealous descriptions of a return to normalcy. Tonight, along with most people around Australia, I’m anxious as cyclone Yasi – tipped to be the worst storm ever to hit Australia – will hit the North Queensland coast. The second unprecedented severe weather event to hit my subtropical adopted state in a matter of weeks. Blimey. Things will be far from normal for a long time.
For what it’s worth, I had this post ready to go. But almost didn’t bother with it. It’s not the most photogenic dish around. In fact, I’d call it a bowl of damn ugly. Helped along by the begrudged fact that most of my food making + photo taking happens after dark in crud light. But see, I’m not doing this gig for pretty. There’s plenty of aesthetically flawless foodie blogs out there. Which I covet, by the way. But super-styled is not me. And aesthetically flawless I cannot achieve. I have an actual day job. Far, far away from the world of food. Which *sigh* prevents me from carousing in the kitchen in excellent light.
You betcha. One day, I’ll have time, and natural light. But for now, these ugly beans are coming your way. Because they’re too good to hide away in my note pad.
Excuse me while I verbally doodle for a minute. These beans are kind of Mexican style, like refried beans with body. Add cheese and you have a seriously stringy melted enchilada. Add more water and they become a stew (which you’ll need a slice of crusty sourdough for dunking). Or spoon them into a bowl, like I did, with brown rice. Comfort food, but the high-quality protein kind that’s packed with goodness. I love that there are just two main ingredients. And that one of these – that’s the creamy pink pinto bean – is a pantry staple. The rest is seasoning. And condiments. (I love condiments.) Just like making a symphony out of an old violin string. Or something. Oh and I love that it’s slow. But somehow is still less demanding than an action-stations stir-fry.
A heads-up: you’ll need to soak the beans overnight.
OK, finished raving. Thanks. Here’s the beans.
I peel most of the tough skin off the pumpkin (winter squash), but like to leave some tender green streaks remaining for colour and texture. Peel the skin though if you prefer. I also like toasting my spices, but it’s fine to use pre-ground. You could substitute canned pinto beans (if you can find them in Australia, please leave a comment) or other white beans. For dried beans, get marching to your local wholefoods store.
1.5 cups pinto beans (soaked overnight)
1.5 cups cubed Jap or butternut pumpkin / winter squash (reserve the seeds)
1 medium brown onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 small red chillies
5 cups boiling water
splash of olive oil
sea-salt and pepper
Place dried beans in bowl and cover with three times as much water. Leave to soak overnight and rinse with fresh water before using.
Heat oil over medium heat in a large heavy pot. Add onion, garlic, chilli and spices and heat until soft and fragrant. Add beans and boiling water and simmer over low-medium heat for an hour. Keep an eye on things and add more water if needed. Give it a stir a couple of times too.
Scatter the reserved pumpkin seeds across a sheet of aluminium foil, sprinkle with sea-salt and grill under a medium heat for a few minutes or until crispy. Set aside in a pinch bowl.
Add pumpkin to the pot and cook everything for a further 10 minutes, or until the pumpkin is cooked but still firm. You may need to add more water along with the pumpkin. In the final stages, smash some of the beans against the pot with the back of your spoon – cheats way to thicken it up!
Adjust seasonings and serve with any or all: yoghurt / sour cream, lime, shaved peccorino and the salted toasted pumpkin seeds.