Spill the (Turtle) Beans

As I travel the world over I just can’t get enough of black beans.  Also known as ‘turtle beans’, their soulful satisfaction and meaty richness give a strong more-ish quality to most dishes cooked with them.  When I came to Australia in 1991, I noticed Australians didn’t eat many beans.  I think because of their European roots they felt beans were a bit of a stodgy peasant food and so not representative of fine quality cooking.  Well, through the years things have changed a bit, but there is still a long way for beans to become a staple in Oz.

Black beans, aptly named, are black, shiny and kidney shaped, and found in many Spanish, Mexican and South American dishes.  It’s a staple of many of these countries.  They are easy to cook and hold their shape so it’s like little black pearls on the plate that can be adorned with many brighter colours to set off the presentation of the little black gems.

Once the exclusive product of South America, they are now grown throughout the world with Brazil and India being the largest producers of dry beans.  They are loaded with vitamins and are an excellent source of soluble fibre and protein.

I still dream of the beautiful Brazilian feijoada on my last visit to Rio de Janeiro during my yearly Taste of South America food tour, delicious black beans in clay pots in Oaxaca, Mexico, and my last Cuban meal of pollo with black beans and yellow rice in Key West, Florida.

My favourite breakfast dish when I owned the Rattlesnake Grill in Sydney was our Huevos Motulenos – eggs over light, on a bed of roasted cumin scented black beans with sauteed bananas, crumbled feta and fire roast salsa served with warm flour tortillas.   The beans add texture to the dish and their mushroom scent intensifies the dish to create a warm rich flavour.

I leave you with one of my favourite all time recipes, Roasted Garlic Black Bean Dip, which you can serve with plantain chips, corn chips, vegetables or warm flour tortillas. Chipotle chilli gives it rich, smokey flavour that marries so well with the earthy beans.  We sometimes make this recipe in our Modern Mexican cooking classes.  We can also theme our corporate cooking events for you, so why not have a Mod Mexican team cooking event the next time. Enjoy the recipe and let me know if you make it.

Rattlesnake Grill Roasted Garlic Black Bean Dip

This recipe is great for a light and tasty snack accompanied with a margarita it makes a perfect lead in to a tasty dinner.


2 cups black beans

½ white onion, diced

1 fresh jalapeno chilli, seeded and diced

½ red capsicum, diced

½ bay leaf

½ tsp ground cumin, dry roasted

3 lt water

salt to taste

90 gm cream cheese

2 whole garlic bulbs, roasted

1½ tbsp chipotle chilli puree


  1. Sort the beans by hand to remove small rocks and bits, and rinse under running water.
  2. Combine the black beans, onion, jalapeno, capsicum, bay leaf, cumin and water in a stockpot. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 1½ hours, till the beans are soft.
  4. Add water to the beans while cooking to keep beans immersed. Season with salt when done.
  5. Prepare the garlic for roasting by removing any loose papery skin, but leave the bulb whole. Cut off ½ cm from the pointy end of each bulb, exposing the ends of the individual garlic cloves. Place the garlic bulb in aluminium foil and drizzle olive oil on top. Wrap tightly and bake in 180 degree oven for an hour or so, until soft. Let cool.
  6. Drain the cooked beans in a colander. You want to get as much excess liquid from the beans as possible.
  7. Combine the cooked beans, garlic, cream cheese and chipotle in a processor and blend until smooth.
  8. Serve with corn tortilla chips or fresh vegetables as a dip. You can also refrigerate for up to 2 days and serve chilled.

Note: Chipotle is a smoked jalapeno. We use the tinned product for full flavour. To make the puree, put the contents of 1 small tin (about 150gm) into a blender and puree. See my blog for information on where to find tinned chipotle.

Serves 6-8

No Comments

Post A Comment

Error: Contact form not found.