How about cooking something up for me?
To the immortal words of Hank Williams’ unforgettable song, our old sea-dog Jonah decides he’s going to share one of his culinary secrets. How come these old timers in Central America, who don’t have two beans to rub together, live to the ripe old age of 90 or more? The answer is diet, and hard work. You all know the saying, “Hard work never killed anyone.” The fact is that hard work saves more lives than it kills, way more!
So what about diet? What do the peasants in Nicaragua and Costa Rica have for breakfast, lunch and dinner? The answer is gallo pinto: a basic mixture of rice and black beans fried together with a little garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Eat it with maize tortillas, an egg (fried or omelette), or maybe a little meat (not too much) or on its own with plenty of chile sauce and you’re away. Live forever!
So how’s it done?
You need to cook your rice and your beans separately and remember that for gallo pinto they will be mixed 50/50 so I won’t give precise weights. Once the beans are cooked you drain off the liquid and let the beans dry.
Then in a large frying pan you fry a little minced garlic with a little finely chopped onion in a generous dose of good oil (sunflower or extra virgin), adding a little salt and pepper to taste. Once the onions are soft you slowly add the beans on a moderate heat. After a minute or two, you add a similar portion of rice and with the heat still low you stir the contents of the pan, noting how the beans and the rice are getting drier all the time. As the moisture begins to evaporate, the rice will take on a reddish hue having absorbed some of the colour from the beans. What this translates into is flavour. You now need to reduce the heat as low as possible so that the mixture continues to dry out, taking care, however not to burn it. Believe me, the mixture of rice and beans in gallo pinto is a marriage made in heaven!
Gallo pinto is often served with sliced fried plantain (either sweet, when skin is yellow, or savoury, when skin is green). Eggs, meat, tortillas are all optional extras. The beauty of this dish, apart from its simplicity and divine taste, is that it delivers in a very simple format, all the protein and carbohydrate you’re going to need if you intend to do a hard day’s work. And there’s an added bonus. By taking your main protein shot from pulses rather than from meat, you’re actually helping to save the planet. So go for it!
Clove or two of minced garlic
Half onion finely chopped
Final point. Keep the leftover gallo pinto in an airtight container in the fridge. When next required gently warm through. You’ll find that with every warm-up, the mixture will get drier, the rice and beans will eventually become crunchy and you will cross the taste barrier into ecstasy. By the way gallo pinto means spotted rooster in Spanish.