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Friday, 3 February 2012

Cheap 'n' Greek 'n' frugal: Black-eyed beans (Μαυρομάτικα)

Prices are in euro (valid in Hania). All ingredients are Greek or locally sourced; those marked with * are considered frugal here because they are cheap and/or people have their own supplies.  

Beans make a very cheap meal. They are a good substitute for meat, and you can get most of your protein needs from beans very cheaply. By soaking beans overnight, you can reduce the cooking time, but this is completely optional - most beans can be cooked tender without soaking.

I slow-cook all my bean dishes (I don't own a pressure cooker), so they take a long time to cook, about 2-3 hours. Because they take a long time to cook, I cook a lot of beans at a time, so that there'll be leftovers. This saves time and energy. Some people scorn leftovers, saying that they make boring meals, or that the food is old and stale at any rate. These are myths. Leftovers are boring if you eat them in the same way you ate the meal when it was freshly cooked. Not only that, but bean soups and stews do not get old and stale: they simply 'mature' with age, becoming tastier as all the flavours have a longer chance to blend together.

Here's a very frugal way to make a large pot of Greek-style black-eyed beans, and some ways to use them differently, either as a variation of a bean dish, or as leftovers.

Very frugal black-eyed beans (serves 4 twice)
Boil 500g dried black-eyed beans (~2 euro) for five minutes and drain them of liquids. Refresh the water and keep boiling the beans for 30 minutes.

Black-eyed bean soup

To make bean soup/stew: In a large pot, place
a few glugs of olive oil*
1 large onion, finely chopped*
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped*
3 tomatoes*, pureed in a blender (a tin of tomatoes can be used if fresh tomato is unavailable to you)
salt and pepper to taste
Add half to two-thirds of the cooked beans and enough water to cover the ingredients to within 1-2cm; the more water you add, the more soupy your stew will become (Greeks add a lot of olive oil to their bean soups). Turn the heat to the lowest level. Let the beans cook for 45-60 minutes to allow the flavours of all the ingredients to blend well. Bean stews like this one keep very well for up to three-four days in the fridge.

Black-eyed bean salad
To make bean salad: In a bowl, place:
the remaining boiled beans
1 onion, finely chopped*
a bunch each of fresh Greek herbs (like parsley and dill, ~40 cents a bunch), finely chopped
a few glugs of olive oil*
a few drops of wine vinegar* (or balsamic vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste
Toss all the ingredients together and serve. Some people prefer this salad to be warmed up, others prefer it cold. If you prefer a hot bean salad, sautee the onion in a little of the olive oil that you intend to use, then mix in the beans and warm them up in the onion, then add all the other ingredients before serving.

 Thanks to Uta for the photo of the beans and chapati.

To use up bean leftovers: Mix some of the bean soup with the bean salad (or some chopped tomato to the bean salad) and serve with a tasty flatbread, like chapatis, which can be made freshly and easily at home.

OR: Cook some rice (in Greece, we would boil it in a pot, but you can also use microwaveable/steamed rice, or leftover cooked rice) and add it to either of the bean dishes, or the mixture of beans. It makes the beans more filling and lighter at the same time.

Total cost of meals: about 4 euro; less than 0.50 cents per serving.

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