A Big Hit with the Clan: Black Beans and Rice


Tuesday afternoon, now, and I’m about to retire to the kitchen once again – today’s task making 4-5 quiches (which I’ll post about tomorrow) to freeze some and have some for dinner tonight.  This is of course after I finish washing up all the pans from yesterday’s ambitious activities!  I am tired just thinking about my kitchen right now, but at least I won’t have to be cooking so much with a newborn, so I press on…

Now to tell you about the rest of my yummy Monday…

Perhaps you’ve had amazing black beans served to you as a side dish at a Mexican restaurant or a Cuban place, or maybe somewhere else in the Caribbean.  Black beans can have all sorts of flavors thrown in, depending on the area of the world from which your recipe originates, from nutmeg and cinnamon, to cumin and cayenne pepper.  It literally took me YEARS to figure out a way to replicate what I thought were the yummiest black beans I’d ever had (served to me at The Fish Wife – an awesome seafood place in Pacific Grove, CA, right next to Pebble Beach.)  I don’t really think mine can be called “Mexican”, “Cuban”, “Puerto Rican”, “Caribbean”, or “Spanish.”  SO we will just call them “Clan Armstrong Black Beans and Rice” and you can pretend they’re Scottish (that’s our last name – Armstrong.)

I made these on Monday throughout the day because it was something simple I could have going on in the midst of my complicated bread baking day.  I started out by rinsing and soaking two bags of dry black beans overnight (which, interestingly enough, I can’t buy in the UK — I’ve had my parents and a friend stuff them into packages for me from the US).  I’ll write down my complete recipe after the photos finish up.

Here they are soaking – taking up the whole huge pot.  (I probably should have used my big lobster pot,

since I barely had room in this pot later on.  After soaking them, drain and rinse well, then refill the pot and set it on the stove to boil gently all day.  This is where the “secret ingredient” comes into play.  You need to boil something with fat in it along with the beans in order to cause the beans to begin to break down.  I have no idea why this is the case, but there you have it.  Perhaps some wise reader can tell me.  Either way, I USUALLY throw in a smoked ham hock.  I have also in the past used just the leftover bacon grease from cooking a whole package of bacon, and also an entire turkey or chicken carcass (obviously in a bigger pot) – you have to watch out for the tiny bones you might get from turkey or chicken, though, and be vigilant to pick them out of the finished product.  I prefer the ham hock because it’s simple and cheap.  It also yields a tasty amount of ham to throw in at the end.  I ALWAYS make 2 bags at a time because we have a large family, and I like to put half into the freezer for another day.  Often I feed this to guests as a side dish to an amazing fish creation (also copied from The Fish Wife) and I usually make sure it’s a large crowd to optimize the praise I receive, so copious amounts of black beans are necessary 🙂  Here’s a shot of boiling the ham hock with the beans:

In the mean time, I also have my brown rice soaking.  From my reading about whole grains, I feel that it is useless to consume them unless you can render them more nutritious to the human body than they are normally.  For brown rice, neutralizing the phytates can be difficult due to a low concentration of the catalyst for the necessary breakdown of phytic acid.  I read somewhere that in order to have a sufficient soak for brown rice that you should save the water from soaking the rice each time and reuse it (adding to it of course) because this causes whatever is necessary for the reaction to build up and become more efficient at doing its job.  I’m sorry I can’t tell you all the technical terms, but you probably don’t care anyway 🙂  Suffice it to say, I found all my information on the internet, and it’s there waiting for you, too, if you want it 🙂  The night before we have brown rice I bring out the rice water I have saved in the fridge from the previous soak and add it to my measured rice already in the pot of my rice cooker.  Then I add enough water to make it to about 2 inches above the rice level, along with some more lemon juice for good measure (The lemon juice is to make the environment more acidic and is what I use from the first soak onwards.)  The next day when you want to cook your rice, you need to rinse it and refill with pure water.  I always make the full capacity of my rice cooker at once and freeze the extra rice to make fried rice for an easy dinner one night 🙂  So – back to the beans.

Once they have happily boiled away the day, I get two HUGE skillets ready, along with a whole head of minced garlic, two onions, and two bell peppers.  My family doesn’t like the peppers or onions in the black beans, so I cut them into large chunks so I can fish them out afterwards to serve the beans sans onion.  Obviously you can halve this recipe because most people don’t cook a ton at once like I do (but hey – at least I only had to use one ham hock for two bags of beans!! Score!)  Saute the bell pepper in olive oil, adding the onion about two minutes later, and the garlic last (you don’t want the garlic to burn!)


Here’s one of my skillets where I’m cooking the garlic and bell peppers – without any onions, though, because I didn’t have any.  In this case I would add onion powder when I add the seasonings, but alas, I used up the rest of that last week.  I do most of my grocery shopping online here in the UK and try to avoid having to run out to the store for each little thing , so I just made it without the onion flavor.  It still was awesome 🙂  Once you reach the point where you think your garlic might start to turn brown, immediately start adding water and beans from your huge bean pot to the skillet.  This will keep the garlic from cooking any further.  You want to fill up your skillets evenly, with not too much liquid, but enough to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the skillet.

At this point, of course, you’ve removed the ham hock so it’s out of your way while you’re doling out beans into each skillet.

This is an instance when I’m glad I’ve used a ham hock, because grabbing a whole chicken carcass out of the pot of boiling beans without having it completely disintegrate between my tongs is quite the challenge, and I have spent a lot of time in the past getting all the bones and gristle out before I can cleanly transfer the beans to my skillet.  Once you’ve got all the beans into the skillets, continue to cook them on medium high heat, having them get a little mushier while the liquid cooks down and thickens up.

Be sure to keep your bean water handy to continue to add it to the skillets as they cook down.  You will especially want to save your bean water if you’re going to be having any of this as leftovers.  Once I serve it onto plates, I’ll add a little to the skillet (when it’s no longer cooking) to keep the leftovers for my fridge moist.  Also, the entire second skillet for me goes right into the freezer.  To those beans I add a lot of extra bean water once the cooking is finished so that there will be plenty there to cook down on the day I reheat them.


At this point, you’re pretty much finished cooking, and you need to season the beans.  I used salt, cumin, a blend of black and red pepper and some Goya Adobo seasoning.  It’s definitely a “season to taste” type of thing, but I’ll tell you how much I used.  Then we serve up some rice onto each plate, top it with a scoop of beans, and shred cheddar cheese on top.  If you’re really feeling authentic you can put on some of that Mexican cheese, but of course there’s no chance of finding that over here 🙂 (It’s impossible to find “American” style cheddar cheese as well – the mildest British cheese is still sharper than the sharpest cheese I’ve found in America!  We are thankful to have a US Commissary on an Air Force base about an hour away where we buy the smoked ham hocks and cheddar cheese, assorted seasonings you can’t find here and other packaged meats and things.)

If there’s any left on the plates I store it all together and stick it into a burrito with eggs the next morning for my breakfast. Yum! 🙂

Clan Armstrong Black Beans and Rice

Soak the night before:

1 bag black beans in cold water, with enough water for the beans to expand

brown rice, in water with lemon juice

Boil all day after draining and rinsing:

Black beans

1 smoked ham hock (or other fat source)

Soften in a skillet:

enough E.V.O.O. to saute with

one onion, diced

half a head of garlic, minced

1 bell pepper, diced

Once the beans have cooked all day:

Add beans and some liquid from pot to the skillet with the cooked garlic, etc.  Cook over medium-high heat to cook down the liquid and mash the beans a bit.  Keep adding liquid and cooking until they reach your desired consistency.

Season to taste using approximately:

generous 1/2 tsp salt

a hearty sprinkling of Goya Adobo seasoning over the top of the whole skillet

1/2 tsp “Hot Shot” blended black and red pepper

1 heaping tsp cumin powder

Serve ladled over hot brown rice, topped with grated cheese.

Please let me know if you give this a try! I haven’t really seen a similar recipe, so I am curious as to how this one goes down with other people 🙂

Can you remember the best beans and rice you’ve ever had (red beans, black beans, cajun beans, etc?)

Do you like to try to recreate meals you’ve had at restaurants?

Do you eat dinner leftovers for breakfast often?

I sure do!!

3 thoughts on “A Big Hit with the Clan: Black Beans and Rice

  1. You might be able to fashion a bag out of cheesecloth in which to soak the chicken/turkey carcass. That will keep the bones out of the beans while letting the fats and flavor through. If cheesecloth falls apart on you, a light muslin would probably work, too.

    We had beans and rice a couple of days ago ourselves. But I didn’t cook them!

  2. Pingback: Weekly Recipe Recommend: The Fishwife’s Magical Meal – fish, shrimp, tomato, basil, black beans… | Who's running this place anyway?

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