Saturday, June 27, 2009

Creole Cuisine: Red Beans & Rice

Red beans and rice incorporate the holy trinity of cuisine (celery, capsicum and onion) with kidney beans and smoked meats to create a cajun style, creamily textured stew, which makes for great comfort or winter food. The closest i can come to describing the taste is as a mix of frijoles and pea and ham soup.

Serves 5

Cooking Time
5 hours excluding soaking the beans overnight

Background on the dish
Red beans and rice is the emblematic dish of Louisiana Creole cuisine, and also be found as a staple food in Central America. It was traditional made on Monday or 'wash day' and left on the stove to cook away with ham leftover from the previous night,
whilst the housekeepers washed the week's clothing.


  • 500g dried red kidney beans
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 2 chorizo sausages
  • 3 stalks celery, diced finely
  • 1 large capsicum, diced finely
  • 1 large onion, dice finely
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshy ground pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic

Equipment Needed

  • Large pot or dutch oven
  • Chopping Board
  • Knife
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Bowl
  • Stove
  • Blender / Food Processor (optional)

  • Soak the beans overnight in a bowl of water. To reduce the 'negative effects' of the beans, change the water in which the beans are soaking 3 times throughout. Drain and set aside.
  • Heat the oil in the pot over a medium heat.

  • Add the onion, capsicum, celery, thyme, pepper, salt and cayenne and saute for 5 minutes.
  • Add the chorizo, ham hock and garlic and continue to saute for a further 5 minutes.

  • Add the beans and bay leaves and sufficient water to just cover the over ingredients. Cover and simmer over a low-medium heam for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove the ham hock from the pot and allow to cool enough to touch. Then remove the skin and discard. Remove the meat from the bone and 'flake' or chop finely and return to mixture. An easy way to flake is to pin down the meat with a fork, and use a second fork to run through the grain of the ham to flake it apart.
  • Recover the mixture and cook for a further 2 hours. If the mixture at any point becomes too thick, simply mix through more water.
  • Mash up half of the beans to form a paste, thickening the mixture. This can be done tradionally by mashing the beans with a wooden spoon against the side of the pot. Alternatively, you can mix half of the beans in a blender and return to the pot. I prefer the latter option because it allows you to maintain whole beans throughout a creamy stew, rather than just a stew full of half mashed beans.
  • Cook uncovered until the mixture resembles a very thick soup.
  • Taste for seasoning and serve over freshly cooked rice. Else, serve with roti or a similar flatbread and sour cream (i prefer it this way).

This mixture will keep in the fridge for 3 days covered, and can freeze. If the mixture is too thick on reheating just add more water.

What i learnt

  • Cayenne pepper gave a warmth through the dish, but didn't really add to the flavour, much like tabasco. The traditional recipes call for andouille sausage; i substituted with chorizo to provide the spicy kick of paprika to the dish.
  • Serving the dish with rice, which is traditional, bogged down the dish with a bit too much carbohydrate to me. Using flakey roti really added another dimension to it; making it much more snackish
  • Some people prefer to cook the sausage outside of the beans and serve on the side. This isn't a bad idea; it would help to break up the texture of the meal

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