Though nowadays it’s somewhat hard to believe, I was, as a child, a fussy eater. I wouldn’t touch salad; I wasn’t keen on much fruit; but the foods I disliked most of all were peas and beans in all their varieties. I HATED the mushy peas sold at fish ‘n’ chip shops, and I despised, despised baked beans, just the merest whiff of which would make me retch.
Eventually though, I was won over (though the baked bean thing continues still), and by the time I went to university, I was a bean addict. In my first year, I cooked an enormous vat of chickpea tagine to raise money for charity; in my second year, the communal house I lived in bought 20 kg sacks of dried beans (and yes, we did get through them all).
Here in China, although beans aren’t a stereotypically Asian foodstuff, I am nonetheless spoilt for choice: vegetable stalls abound with fresh green peas and plump broad beans, while the dried goods stores are filled with butter, aduki and black beans.
These last (whose Chinese name, hei dou, also means ‘black bean’) have become a regular ingredient for Cam and I, and here is one dish that we’ve particularly enjoyed recently. Though in the picture the beans are still a bit crunchy (I was impatient and didn’t let them cook for long enough), I do think it would be better if they were completely soft, and so have indicated this in the recipe.
P.S. If you’re worried about the error, gaseous effects of eating beans, I’ve heard that if you use a fresh pan-full of water after bringing the beans to the boil for the first time, this can lesson their impact.
Black Bean and Butternut Squash Dip
About 3 handfuls of dried black beans
500 kg of butternut squash
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 and 1/2 teaspoons of cumin seeds, roasted and then roughly ground
2 teaspoons of dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons of Thai-style chili sauce
A handful of fresh coriander leaf, roughly chopped
Salt to taste
- Soak the black beans in plenty of cold, fresh water for at least 6 hours; once hydrated, change the water and then boil until soft and buttery (about 2 hours).
- Peel the squash and discard the seeds, cut into even chunks and then boil until cooked, about 10-15 minutes.
- Mash the cooked beans and squash together until smooth.
Add the garlic, cumin seeds, soy sauce, chili sauce, salt and almost all of the coriander leaf and mix well.
- Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with the rest of the coriander leaf and serve. This dish is particularly tasty when eaten with fresh and crusty wholegrain bread.