I have made many discoveries thanks to this blog, most of which are about the world of food. I’ve had the chance to cook many new recipes and I’ve got to know better some alternative diets. one of these discoveries is that the November of each year is called “The World Vegan Month” to celebrate a vegan diet. I am (almost) happily omnivore but recently I have tried to eat less and less meat and use more and more seasonal vegetables, legumes and grains in my cooking. That’s why my instant reaction to a vegan month was “Challenge Accepted!”. I’ve prepared many simple vegan dishes and I’ve posted most of them on Instagram. I have also made a collection of them on Steller.
I admit it was difficult to omit all animal products. For example I found out that my Achilles’ heel is cheese and sometimes even eggs. But the nice thing is that as soon as you try to approach a new world almost immediately you find new ways and methods to use new ingredient to make whole plant-based dishes that are both tasty and nutritious.
Then in the middle of November (which felt much more like September/October here in Rome), came along once more ChckenBroccoli, the cool Italian blog about cinema, and asked me to watch the preview of a movie and come up with a recipe about it. Naturally I accepted with a big grin on my face.
It’s called Trash, based on a young adults’ best-seller by the same name. The story evolves in Rio de Janeiro, where the three main characters work in a huge garbage dump. It’s a story about the good and the evil. (Speaking of the good and the evil, make sure you check out these fantastic illustrated magazines by ChickenBroccoli, even if they’re in Italian they’re still worth the look.) Surrounded by massive filth and trash, unmerciful poverty and immense corruption, these kids decide to do “the right thing” and that makes them a voice for hope.
It’s a nice little film, especially young adults can be inspired by the courage of these kids. There’s that right amount of Adrenaline without an excess of violence. And one can’t help but being reminded of The Slumdog Millionaire, where other poor and filthy kids tried to survive the injustice and beat the evil guys. Of course they’re not quite comparable when it comes to the soundtrack, the script and the editing as The Slumdog Millionaire was many steps forward. (And that’s how I replaced checkBroccoli as a movie critic!)
During the movie I was constantly looking for the slightest trace of food, or a dish that would inspire me to come up with a recipe. The sad thing was that, not by chance, (and on the contrary of the other movie) there’s no sign of food at all. Actually, the thing that is most noted is the absence of food. As a matter of fact the only scene in which someone wants to get some food is when one a boy looks for something to eat in a trash can and finds a half-bitten apple and some other dirty garbage. The parents of these kids are never shown, neither are any other parental figures who would take care of them (except from the American missionaries). It made me think about how important it would be for a kid like Rafael to find a nice, warm and nutritious dish when comes back home. A meal that would give him the energy and the necessary substances to grow up well and in health. Maybe a nice simple dish of rice and beans, with simple and cheap ingredients, that also contains the right amount of proteins, fibers and minerals.
Beans are an essential part of the Brazilian cuisine. They use them a lot and many different ways. In Rio black beans are more used. The famous rice and beans dish is more of a side dish that is served next to main courses based on meat. As a matter of fact I had a hard time trying to find an authentic vegetarian Brazilian recipe and my Brazilian friends confirmed that meat is quite a big deal in the Brazilian diet.
I have made this vegan bean stew and white rice, thinking about the simple ingredients we may find in the depth of our fridge and in the pantry. It’s super tasty and full of flavor thanks to the herbs and spices. You can serve it with simple white/brown rice, quinoa or millet. It’s hearty, warm and aromatic and besides being vegan, it’s also gluten free. This vegan bean stew would be perfect for long winter evenings and could also be an option on a vegan/vegetarian holidays dining table.
- 40 gr dry borlotti beans*
- 30 gr dry black beans*
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 courgette, sliced lengthwise
- 0.5 bell pepper, diced
- 7-8 cherry tomatoes**
- a handful of coriander (cilantro), leaves and stalks
- 0.5 tbsp corn starch
- 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tsp of smoked paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper (or chilly if you prefer)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp salt
- Soak the beans in two separated bowls of cold over night.
- Heat 1 tbsp of e.v. olive oil in a casserole. Add half of the sliced onion, the diced carrot, and finely chopped cilantro stalks. Sauté until the onion becomes translucent.
- Drain borlotti beans first and run under tap water then add it to the sauté. Cover with cold water, add a little salt and let it cook for an hour.
- Heat the rest of the olive oil in a pan. Add the other half of the onion, the grated ginger and 1 tsp of the paprika e stir well on a low-medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the diced bell pepper and cook for about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, drain the black beans and rinse very well. Add to the pot and if it's necessary add a little more water.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add to the beans together with the rest of the paprika, cayenne pepper and the bay leaves. Cover and cook for another half an hour.
- In the mean time add the courgette to pan of onion and bell pepper and cook for about 10 minutes.
- Dissolve corn starch in half a cup of cold water and add to the beans for more density and creaminess. Then add the veggies of the pan too.
- Cover and cook for another 10-20 minutes. The overall cooking time should be the one written on the beans' packaging (or just until they're very soft).
- Serve with steam cooked rice, quinoa, or millet, with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh coriander leaves.
- *You could use canned beans if you wanted to. Personally I have never seen canned black beans. Just remember that canned legumes are often filled with salt, preservative additives and even sugar.
- **You could use half a can of cherry tomatoes if they're not in season. Here's it's been such a warm autumn that we still have acceptable tomatoes. Don't use tomatoes paste though, we want to have chunks of tomatoes.
- ***I didn't find fresh coriander when I made this dish for the shooting, but having tried that before I know it'd absolutely be delicious.
Coming from Iran, she mostly develops her recipes by combining the aromas of the middle east with the flavors of the Mediterranean, specially Italy, where she has found her second home.