Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How to Make Belizean Style Rice and Beans

In a prior post I talked about making rice the Belizean way. You wash the rice until all the starch dust has been removed and then cook it down in coconut milk until it is nice and fluffy. The great majority of Belizeans use white rice but you can make some delicious nutty-coconutty brown rice as well.

Plain rice of this type is often served with Stewed Beans. I have for your pleasure and convenience recently posted a standard Belizean stewed beans recipe.

But there is a third staple dish out there, famous and commonly eaten across Belize and in many other countries around Central America and the Caribbean, and that is Rice and Beans. As any decent guidebook to Belize will tell you, Rice and Beans and Beans and Rice are NOT the same thing. Beans and Rice refers to plain white rice, preferably cooked with coconut milk, and stew beans, which are beans, normally red kidney beans, but commonly also black beans, cooked in a lot of water, usually with cumin, pepper and fresh herbs, salted pigtail and lots of garlic and onion until it forms a rich gravy. The rice is dished out and the beans and their delicious gravy is typically spooned over the top.

Rice and Beans on the other hand is a dry mixture of rice and beans cooked TOGETHER in the same pot.  I have heard a number of different ways of doing this, but the way that I know how to cook rice and beans is the following:

Belizean Rice and Beans

Ingredients:

Cooked beans. (Red kidney beans are most common, but I have seen rice and beans made in Belize with everything from RK beans to black beans to black eyed peas. This is a perfect use for your leftover stewed beans from the day before)
Coconut Milk (see post on making coconut rice for information on coconut milk)
Rice (This is usually white but this can be made with well washed brown rice as well)
Salt
Coconut Oil

Procedure:

The procedure for making rice and beans is very similar to that for making plain rice. Take as much rice as you think you will need (one cup of dry rice is usually enough for two people, but I would suggest making more, rice and beans are delicious and reheat well). Put it in a pot, run water over it and wash the rice, pouring out the water until the water runs clear instead of becoming cloudy with starch. Then put enough coconut milk (or water or broth if you don't want coconut rice) in the pot so that it reaches to the first joint on your index finger when the tip of your finger is touching the rice (this is much simpler than it sounds. Stick your finger in the pot until you touch the rice, and look down. Is the liquid up to the first joint of your index finger? Yes? Ok, you're good). I like a tablespoon of coconut oil added to the pot as well for extra coconut flavour. ''

NOW, here's the different part. Add your cooked beans to the pot as well. If you are using one cup of rice and only making enough for two people, you probably only need about half a cup or so of cooked beans. But again, I urge you to make more. So for 2 cups of dry rice, I would add about one cup of cooked beans. Just dump them in and gently stir them in before you even start the burner. Add salt to taste, remembering that the stew beans will have some salt in them already.

Put the pot over high heat with the lid off and let it come to a boil. When it has boiled until there is only a little liquid left over the top of the grains (which usually only takes a few minutes), turn the heat down to very low, put the lid on, and let simmer for about 20 minutes (30 for brown rice) until the grains have absorbed all the liquid and are not tough or crunchy when you taste one. Turn off the burner and let the rice and beans sit in the pot with the lid on for another couple minutes before you serve it.

Do you want to read even more about rice and beans? My mentor and academic adviser Dr. Richard Wilk contributed to this book, which is all about rice and beans in fourteen different countries!