I have always been intrigued by Mexican food. The same way that Indian food remains mysterious for many people just because it’s so diverse, I feel Mexican food is something that one can spend a lifetime studying. I consider myself lucky that we have the opportunity to try out different flavours of this colourful cuisine living in California. Of course, a lot of it is in no way a hundred percent authentic but if it gives me even a glimpse of what the real thing would be like, I am happy for now.
We discovered ‘Mi Pueblo’, a very popular supermarket chain catering exclusively to Mexican cuisine. On our first visit there, I picked up some lovely dried poblano (ancho) chillies and a packet of spicy Mexican chilli powder. Ever since, I’ve been looking for ways to use these lovely ingredients. The idea was to cook up a batch of beans with these spices and use it along side a meat dish. That’s when I thought, why not put in both the meat and the beans together in one pot and see what happens. The result – a pot of slowly cooked beans and pork with a smoky flavour from the dried chillies and paprika. The meat was so tender that it fell apart at a mere touch while the beans were pillowy and soft. A perfect accompaniment to each other and a great dish to feed a crowd.
Mexican Style Braised Beans & Pork
Ingredients (serves 5-6 generously)
3-4 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
1 medium red onion diced
2-3 garlic cloves peeled
3 dried ancho chillies first softened by placing them in hot water for 15-20 minutes and then finely chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika powder
1/2 tsp hot chilli powder
3 medium tomatoes diced
about 600g/1.5lbs boneless pork shoulder cut into large chunks
about 450g/1lb dry pinto beans
salt to taste
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed casserole dish on medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic. Saute for a few minutes until the onion is soft. Add the ancho chillies, smoked paprika and hot chilli powder. Cook this for a couple of minutes and then add the pork. Let the meat brown a bit and then add the tomatoes to the pan. Add the pinto beans and stir it all together. Pour enough water to cover the beans and meat completely. You may also use stock instead of water for added flavour. I did not season with salt at this stage as, apparently, this can make the beans go tough.
Bring it to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cover with a tight lid. Let it cook on low heat for about 2 hours. Check occasionally to see if there’s enough liquid in the pan. After 2 hours, remove the lid, pick out the pieces of meat and set aside on a plate. If there is a lot of liquid still left at this stage, you can increase the heat to let this bubble away. Using a potato masher, mash the beans just a little. Shred the meat using two forks and add it back to the pot. Season with salt.
I served this topped with a dollop of sour cream and fresh coriander leaves. I found later that a squirt of fresh lemon juice and some salsa added more zing to my bowl of beans and pork. Serve it with tortillas or rice or even bread and you’ll have one winner on your hands.
It’s a dish that will warm you on a cold winter’s evening. Perfect for when you have a few friends around, comforting and nourishing at the same time. Enjoy!