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Chili Beans With A Secret Ingredient

My partner is a chili fiend.  He would eat chili beans for every meal if he could. We compromise. But I do make chili beans quite a lot. He’s a big bloke and he needs a lot of fuel. But, like me, he alternates between being very physically active and spending too much time doing sitting work. So the perfect fuel is very filling but low calorie, low GI, high protein and high nutrient value.  Pretty much the kind of food that is good for all of us.

This time of year he’s in luck. I have chilis and more chilis in the garden, and plenty of mature beans. I dry and store some for winter – they’re a great easy-store crop. But fresh mature beans are one of those foods that only gardeners get to really appreciate. Commercially, you only have a choice between green beans or dried beans.

If you don’t have mature beans in the garden, you can use dried beans for this. You just need to think of it a half day in advance to allow for soaking time. And if you use mild chilis, it’s like a home-made healthy version of baked beans.

The Recipe

Makes 4 decent sized serves. It’s good on its own, or with brown rice or some other grain dish to make a complete protein. Makes great leftovers.

You need 2 cups of cooked beans for this recipe.  Mature beans, shelled, yield about the same cooked as raw, so you need 2 cups of fresh shelled beans. Dried beans swell to about double their size, so one cup of dried beans, soaked overnight or for the day.

All beans, fresh or dried, need soaking or boiling before cooking, and the first batch of water thrown away. They have a kind of complex, indigestible sugar called  oligosaccharide in their skin. It’s not dangerous, just fart producing, and it can give some people uncomfortable wind. Oligosaccharides are only in the skin and they are water soluble, so soaking gets rid of them.  With my fresh beans, I bring them to the boil, drain, replace the water, then pressure cook for 8 to 10 minutes. With dried beans, I just throw out the soaking water and pressure cook for around half an hour or simmer for an hour or so.

In a large pot, in a little olive oil, sauté

  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds

Cook till the onion is soft and the seeds are popping, then add

  • 1 diced capsicum
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 chilis (or to taste, depending on how hot your chilis are and how hot you like it, but beans mellow chili more than you would think)
Cook for a few minutes more, then add
  • 2 cups of cooked beans
  • salt
  • 600 grams of diced tomatoes, or a jar of passata
  • 1 teaspoon of treacle
  • 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder

The cocoa powder is the secret ingredient. It adds a bit of richness and balances up the sweet and acid. It’s not so weird – Mexicans use cocoa in savory dishes a lot.

You may need to add a little water, depending on your tomatoes. Simmer for at least 15 minutes and serve in a bowl on its own, or over rice, or in a tortilla.

Did you do the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge this week? Links welcome.


{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Gillian February 21, 2012, 10:38 am

    Ooh I love baked beans and am always looking for a new twist – will have to try the cocoa! I cook mine in the crock-pot – seems to give everything a nice mellow mixed together taste. I also found that I enjoy the flavor of different kinds of beans mixed together, especially a half cup of lentils – they seem to dissolve into the sauce and thicken it. we have been trying to have meatless mondays – might now have to take up the challenge for the tuesday night vego challenge.

  • Elaine coolowl February 21, 2012, 12:54 pm

    Chilli chocolate is to die for 😉 I adore home-made baked beans but they don’t like me – very acid-making and verging on indigestible. I use either cooked commercial Limas or Chick Peas. Do your home-grown dried beans give you indigestion?

  • Linda February 21, 2012, 1:07 pm

    Hi Elaine, I use home-grown beans a lot, and they never give me indigestion, but then bought beans don’t either. I think the trick is in the soaking to get rid of of oligosaccharides and long cooking, or pressure cooking. I was going to suggest maybe beans just don’t like you, but if Limas do….

  • Kylie February 21, 2012, 4:35 pm

    Hi Linda…This recipe is perfect timing as I have been wondering what to do with my over mature beans that I didn’t manage to pick in time…Just wandering how long I might cook them in a normal pot…I don’t have a pressure cooker…Thanks a load…Kylie

  • Kylie February 21, 2012, 4:36 pm

    oh –should have said they are fresh from the pods…

  • Linda February 21, 2012, 4:41 pm

    Hi Kylie, if they are fresh from pods that are not dried out, they will be pretty quick. I bring them to the boil in a pot of water, tip that water out and refresh with new water, and simmer for around 20 minutes. It will depend on the size and type of bean, and I like beans to be really quite soft, but it’s much quicker than dried beans.

  • L February 21, 2012, 8:55 pm

    Oh Linda- this looks so good! Once I get my head around growing beans for drying I will definitely make this regulary. Cooking dried beans takes absolutely forever for me at the moment because I don’t have a pressure cooker.

    Tonight we had mixed mushrooms with garlic and chives http://500m2.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/tuesday-night-vego-mixed-mushrooms-with-garlic-and-chives/

  • Sarah February 22, 2012, 7:38 am

    Looks lovely! Cocoa powder as a savoury ingredient makes a lot of sense, after all, it’s very bitter, and balances out sweet sauces really well. My favourite chocolate sauce is with red wine, and on venison (but you could use roo fillet…)

    Anyway, here’s my effort for this week: http://sarah.hudweb.net/2012/02/stir-fried-veggies-two-ways.htm

  • Sarah February 22, 2012, 9:49 am
  • Linda February 22, 2012, 9:53 am

    We made “Easter Bunny Mole” one year – rabbit in a mole sauce based on chocolate and chili. It was very good. The kids, all old enough to be past believing in the Easter Bunny, thought the whole idea of a recipe that started with “take one or two easter bunnies” was a fantastic way to gross out their friends!

  • Linda February 22, 2012, 10:00 am

    My pressure cooker is one of my kitchen treasures. I use it practically every day, as a pressure cooker or just as a big stainless steel pot with a good lid.

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