Friday 20 June 2008

Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music, Ad Infinitum...

Some of the most popular dishes in Cuba involve the red and black varities of kidney bean. The red kidney bean, usually called 'colora'o' has a buttery flavour. Its counterpart, the black one, is usually cooked with white rice.

When my mother was here in the UK five years ago I helped her make black bean soup. I write 'help', but I was as much of a nuisance to her as a mosquito is when buzzing close to one's ear at night. So, technically speaking I have never prepared this dish on my own. But that doesn't mean that I won't in the near future. Yes, I am cheating. Slightly.

Anyway, Black Bean Soup, ladies and gents.

450g (1lb) dried black beans, soaked overnight
2 bay leaves
175ml (6 fl oz) olive oil
1 sweet red bell pepper, seeded and chopped coarsely
1 sweet green bell pepper, seeded and chopped coarsely
4 shallots, sliced finely
2 tbs fresh, finely chopped coriander
5 pints of water
juice of 3 oranges (what we call 'naranja agria' in Spanish, I have never seen it in the UK)
juice of 1 lime
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 small onion, sliced fine
1 tbs white rum (optional)
1 tbs sherry (optional)
pinch of salt
1 tbs dried oregano
¼ tsp ground cumin
½ tbs fresh root gingr, finely chopped
1 ½ tbs soft brown sugar (optional. Or if you're from Camagüey)

Boil the beans in the water with the bay leaves. Reduce to simmer, and cook for 3 1/2 hours until tender. Sauté the shallots, peppers, ginger and garlic in the oil. When tender, add the coriander and sugar. Fry for 30 seconds. Add lime and orange juice, rum, sherry, oregano and cumin. Cook for 2 minutes and salt. Remove bay leaves from beans and add sautéed mixture to beans. Stir and serve hot.

Taken from Classic Cuban Cookery by Andy Gravette, published by fusion press.

Now, I like my music to have the same flavour as my black beans, so that's why I have selected a playlist that reflects my culinary tastes. Important note: the tracks will start playing automatically, and if you don't fancy one, you can always fast-forward or rewind to another, just like a normal stereo.

Jazzyfatnastess - 'Show Your Face' (Live) (very rare performance by one of the better jazz and soul duets I have seen in years).

Fiona Apple - 'Sleep to Dream' (Live). This is a beauty and I love Fiona's voice.

Juan Luis Guerra - 'La Bilirrubina' (Live). Who can keep quiet with this upbeat tune? 'Quisiera Ser Un Pez' (Live). It brings back memories of my uni days, powerful lyrics.

Bob Marley - 'No Woman, No Cry' (Live). The great Bob, a great tune for a great dish.

Ojos de Brujo - 'Sultanas de Merkaillo' (Live on Jools Holland). Excellent performance by the Spanish flamenco troupe.


  1. oh man,

    you got me again. i saw the jazzies live in philly a few years ago--had never heard of them before that time. they came on the stage with sex and grace--they sang "show ur face" and i was hooked. vibing to the jazzies while eating arroz con pollo y frijoles. i can dig that.

  2. Hahaha! I love the jazzies. I heard they played Jazz Cafe in Camden Town, north London and I could not make it to the concert. Grrr! But I have got their album 'The Tortoise and the Hare' and it's always a must-play record for me.

    Yes, you're right, arroz con frijoles y pollo. Boy, that's my food!

    Greetings from London.

  3. Cuban, tú no le echas vinagre? ´cuando ya están, un chirrito chiquito...

  4. Ah, y ultimamente les estoy echando dos cucharaditas de azúcar blanca (y no prieta) y saben muy bien....

  5. The Jazzies are good. They sound a bit like Aretha to me. La bilirrubina is kind of an anthem from the 90's. Bob Marley is God. Fiona and the Sultanas are just fine. Great selection.
    BTW, a couple of hours ago I was in a supermarket with a can of black beans in my hand but I know it is not anywhere near a real Cuban-style dish of Frijoles Negros, be it whole potaje, the refined African Cream or your Black Bean Soup...
    Al Godar

  6. Claro, agu, el vinagre, si, eso es para que cuajen bien, no?

    Al, just like you, man, I stood in a supermarket here a few years ago with a similar can in my hand, and I said 'No way, this ain't my real Cuban Black Bean Soup'.

    Gracias por pasar.

    Saludos desde Londres.



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