end of an era

a long while ago now, I started transitioning away from being purely vegetarian. First along was a whole roast chicken dinner. Then came bacon. Not long after that, I simply ordered a steak. I’ve never been one for absolutes and I absolutely hated turning down kind-hearted meals from a generous host simply because they didn’t know. And frankly, I love cured meats. So my culinary adventures now incorporate some animal products. But after a decade of balanced vegetarian food values I won’t be giving up the pulses any time soon. Hence:

Good ol’ Beans and Rice ..with Bacon!

Serves 2 for dinner or 3 for lunch. Takes about 30 minutes, or as long as it takes to cook a pot of rice.

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  • First, fry some bacon. Add a dash of olive oil to a heavy bottomed pan and lay out at least 6 pieces of back bacon. Leave them alone, turning occasionally, until they are really browned. Lay them out on a paper napkin so they will crisp up.
  • Meanwhile, prepare to cook your rice. I like to use brown basmati rice- add a cup of rice to a saucepan and cover with water. Add a boullion cube (chicken packs the most flavour!) and a 1/4 tsp of garam masala. Let this simmer away until the rice is al dente or soft, but definitely not mushy.
  • Timing wise, if you get the bacon going first you will probably finish putting the rice on and Still have plenty of time to chop up your vegetables:

-1 medium onion chopped in half slices, or minced if you prefer

-1 small bunch of green onions, diced generously into the green for colour

-2 or 3 mushrooms (or a small amount of any other quick-frying vegetable like bell pepper, leeks, zucchini etc.)

-half a lemon or lime

And there should be time yet to prepare the beans! Take one small can of pinto/black eye/barlotti beans and empty them into a strainer. Now, you will need to rinse them beans about 50 times until the water runs clear and there are are no more strange white bubbles forming on the top and sides. This process will force out a lot of the tinned smell and flavour. It may actually only take like ten rinses but really this is one of the few dishes that is so quick and easy (and almost universally pleasing) that it makes more sense to deal with the drawbacks of canned beans rather than cooking your own.

Once the bacon is done, leave all that bacon grease in the pan. You will make the most of this. Over a medium-low flame, soften the onion in the fat and then add 1/2 tsp cumin and red pepper flakes into the hot oil. Dump in your rinsed beans and fry ’em up good, letting them stick to the bottom of the pan to develop a nice crust. Add your vegetables next, however many you like although I would really only use a few mushrooms myself. When its all nicely cooked, spoon in your rice and mix ‘er all up. Garnish generously with bacon bits, sliced green onions, lemon juice, freshly ground pepper and sea salt.

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