Ideally you should use dried beans for this and soak them in cold water for 6 hours or so before cooking. You'll end up with noticeably more flavour than if you use canned beans: because canned beans are never seasoned with salt properly, they will always end up tasting bland even if you add salt, because it hasn't had a chance to penetrate to the centre of the beans; in other words the sauce will be nicely seasoned but the beans will be bland in the middle.
You can, nonetheless, produce a tasty version of this dish using canned beans. Even better if you make it the day before which will allow the flavours to infuse and the beans to soak up your nicely seasoned sauce.
- 250 g dried black beans (or 3 cans of cooked beans)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 large cloves garlic, chopped or sliced
- ½ tsp chilli flakes
- 1.5 tsp cumin seeds
- 1.5 tsp smoked paprika
- ½ 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 100 g smoked bacon lardons
- 6 hot green chillies, chopped
- 3 handfuls baby spinach
- fine quality rapeseed oil, for frying
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
If using dried beans, place them in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Leave for 6 hours, then drain in a colander. If using canned beans, simply drain them in a colander.
Pour 3 tablespoons of rapeseed oil into a a large, heavy-based pot or casserole and place over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and cumin seeds along with a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and starting to become sweet. Add the chilli flakes, cumin seeds, smoked paprika and some cracked black pepper.
If you're using canned beans, add the canned tomatoes and vinegar at this point and simmer gently for 10 minutes before adding the beans. Continue cooking for 15 minutes.
If you're using dried beans, add the beans first, along with the vinegar and enough water to just cover the beans. Simmer gently for 20 minutes before adding the tomatoes. Continue cooking for 20 minutes or so until the beans are tender, then remove from the heat and stir in the baby spinach.
At this point, taste the beans and add more salt and white wine vinegar if you think they need it. In a frying pan, fry the bacon lardons until crisp. Serve the beans with the bacon and the chopped green chillies scattered over.