New Orleans is one of our favourite cities – and I don’t mean the fratboy party scene. It is a foodie paradise for one. And a music paradise for two (although sometimes you have to hunt a bit to find stuff like trad jazz). And the people are friendly. But for the good of your soul, make an aggresive effort to leave the French Quarter a few times.
Anyway, it is a tradition there to serve red beans and rice for lunch on Mondays. This has nothing to do with living in London, of course. And we at the Londinium Project don’t come from anywhere remotely near Louisiana. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get cravings. So, faced with an insanely rainy late summer bank holiday Monday, we set out to make some comfort food.
We don’t claim this to be a traditional preparation – in fact, probably extremely far from it – but it was delicious anyway.
What you’ll need:
- Red kidney beans, soaked overnight
- White rice, around 4 cups
- Smokey bacon lardons, 250g
- Port trotters or ribs to flavour the stock
- Water, about 10-15 ups
- Spicy sausages (chorizo, merguez, actual andouille if you can find it), 4-6 big links
- Celery, green bell peppers, oions (the Holy trinity)
- Garlic to taste, chopped
- Paprika, black pepper, thyme, oregano, cayenne peppers: about 2 tsp each
- A tablespoon of olive oil or butter
- Pepper vinegar and/or Tabasco
First of all, the usual caveats: such dishes are hard to mess up, and it’s all highly to taste, so feel free to adjust the spices and the bacon accordingly to get the flavour you like. We like heat and bacon here, so we use plenty of cayenne and bacon.
You’ll need to soak your beans overnight – cover them with about 2 inches of water in a bowl, and cover the bowl, and let them hang out.
The next day, start out by finely chopping up your onions, and coarsely chopping the green peppers and celery.
If you like garlic, throw that in. Put it all in a large pot (a casserole pot works perfectly) with a little olive oil or butter, and cook lightly until this is fragrant (just a few minutes). Then, add about 10 cups of water along with all of your spices and the bacon. This will be the base of your dish, so feel free to spice liberally. Add the trotters or or ribs, if using, to give the sauce some extra flavour from marrow and other good stuff in there:
Bring this all to a boil, and then cut the heat a bit and let the mixture simmer, uncovered, for about 90m. Your home will start to smell awesome after a while.
Once the broth has formed and reduced a bit, it’s time to add the beans and another 5 cups of water, but use your judgement here: if your simmer was too mild, and not much of the liquid has evaporated, then use a little less. If it looks like it evaporated too much, add a bit more.
We like to put 2 whole sausages in the mix at this point, so the broth picks up some extra flavour, which will get soaked into the beans as it cooks.
Bring this mixture to a strong boil again, then cut the heat back again and let it all simmer, uncovered, until the liquid reduces to a consistency that works for you (and the beans are soft enough for your liking). This took a few hours for us, as we like it thick. But it is just as good when less thick! As it thickens, you’ll want to start making your rice so you can serve it all nice and hot.
Tip: if you can’t quite the broth as thick as you like, try smooshing a few of the beans against the side of your casserole, and stir them in.
That’s it! Fill some bowls with rice and scoop your delicious broth all over it, and don’t be shy with the Tabasco!
By the way, hot pepper vinegar is amazingly perfect with red beans & rice, but you’ll have to prepare it several days in advance (if not weeks) to allow it to build its proper flavour.