Smoky Chilli Bean & Bacon Stew

OK I have a confession to make –  the ragu sauce I made recently wasn’t made with Italian pancetta. It wasn’t even some British bacon lardons. I bought the 60p cooking bacon from Tesco (I’m sure the other supermarkets have an equivalent). Money is tight at the moment and I thought to myself ‘ lets give this a go’. A housemate of mine way back in the 90s brought this stuff to my attention, with his student friendly throw-it-all-in chilli recipe, where pretty much everything came out of tins and he threw in this cooking bacon. Now I’m sure this is not going to be winning any sustainable farming awards, but at 60p for 500g of bacon, if you’re strapped for cash and looking to add some protein to a meal this can’t really be beaten – it’s cheaper even than liver and this is BACON!

Each pack is a bit of a lottery; you can see some of it is smoked, some unsmoked, there’s some rasher off cuts and also some big lumps of bacon. This pack was mostly large lumps, so having diced up the thick rasher offcuts for the ragu, memories of my old housemate came to me and I knew I was going to use these bacon chunks to make a bean and bacon stew. The half pack of dried black beans that had been lurking in the cupboard pretty much sealed the deal. I think the remaining veal sausages might also have found their way in here too, but haven’t included them in the recipe.

It’s pretty versatile stuff, I served it on toast with a poached egg for a few brunches and then used the remainder topped with sweet potato mash to make a sort of chilli bean shepherd’s pie type affair, that tasted better than it looked.

Ingredients

  • 250g dried black beans, or beans of your choice.
  • 1 onion finely diced.
  • 1 stick of celery diced.
  • 1 green pepper finely diced.
  • 1-3 green chillies, finely diced, seeds in or out as you prefer.
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely diced.
  • 200-400g of cooking bacon, cut in 2cm chunks.
  • 2 tsp of smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp of chilli flakes.
  • 2 tsp dried oregano.
  • Pinch of dried thyme.
  • 2 tsp chipotle paste (if you don’t have this, just use extra smoked paprika).
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree.
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar (any vinegar will do).
  • 1 glass of red or white wine.
  • 500ml chicken stock.

Method

Rinse the beans, and leave to soak overnight. Drain, rinse again and then boil in a large pan for 45 minutes or until tender. Drain and leave to one side. If you don’t want to do this, then use two tins of black beans. While the beans are simmering, let’s get on with the base of the stew.

Gently fry the onion, celery, green pepper and green chillies in plenty of olive oil. When the vegetables are softened, add the garlic and cook for a another minute or two.

Turn up the heat and add the bacon, cook until the bacon is seared all over.

Add the dried herbs and spices, the chipotle and tomato pastes, the sherry vinegar and the wine, allow to reduce by half before adding the chicken stock.

Simmer the stew gently for 45-60 minutes, add the drained beans for the last 15 minutes and continue cooking until the sauce reduces to a nice consistency coating the beans and the bacon.