It’s cold and grey outside, so let’s bring in those warm colours and fresh and sunny flavours! This week I treated my family to this Mexican-inspired black bean salad and put a big smile on their faces. It combines some of my favourite ingredients that are just meant to be put together: smoky black beans, sweet and sticky sweet potato, juicy sweetcorn and of course avocado. Combined with arugula, a fresh and nourishing dressing and crunchy tortilla chips, it’s a satisfying midwinter main, or, as I think, a lovely salad to be eaten any season of the year.
Tortilla chips are one of my guilty pleasures. I love their crunchy texture and bold flavouring, but because I can hardly contain myself once I open a bag, I try not to buy them that often. Since their addition really lifts up this otherwise healthy salad, I chose to use homemade, oven-baked tortilla chips here. Making your own tortilla chips is quite easy and actually a lot of fun. Apart from that, it gives you complete control over ingredients, flavouring and mode of preparation. This makes it possible to reduce the salt and fat content and up the nutritional value, without losing any of the yummy characteristics. I’ve been experimenting away this past week and I’m very happy with the result! You can find the recipe here. Homemade and baked like this, these chips add crunch and flavour to the salad in a form that doesn’t need to make any excuses: no guilt here, just pleasure.
The dressing that makes this salad come together, is an adaptation of Angela Liddon’s wonderful coriander and lime cashew sauce. Hers was the first recipe I read using raw cashews as the base for a sauce and every time I prepared a sauce like this since, I’ve been amazed by how creamy it turns out.
Some of you may have wanted to stop reading at the word coriander. I don’t think there are many ingredients that cause such vehemently opposed opinions as this little herb. I love its fresh and citrussy flavour, but in this I stand alone in my family, who’d sooner use the words soapy and awful to describe it. If the thought of using coriander puts you off, this might be the moment to reconsider, though. Maybe it’s the influence of the cashew nuts, or the fact that coriander and lime are made for each other, but everyone in my family loves this coriander sauce. It makes a nice and fresh dressing, but if you leave it creamy and a bit thicker, it also makes a wonderful dip to go with, say, those homemade tortilla chips.
As you’ll see in the recipe below, the preparation of this salad is quite easy, but it requires a bit of planning. I’m using dried beans for their superior taste and texture, but they do take their cooking time, which I use to allow the cashew nuts to soak. Of course, you could cook the beans a day before or use tinned beans as a shortcut. In that case, remember to still put the cashews in soaking water 1-3 hours before you’re ready to make the dressing. For additional notes on the use of dried beans, see here.
All this said, I wish you a bright and colourful day and hope this food can contribute to it.
Black bean salad with charred sweetcorn and oven-baked tortilla chips – serves 4
- 100 g raw cashew nuts
- 200 g dried black beans or 400 g tinned ones, rinsed and strained
- 1 kg sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. paprika
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 corn cobs, leaves and threads removed
- 2 avocados
- 1 lime
- 15 g coriander leaves
- 4 tbsp. water
- salt to taste
- 125 g arugula
- 1 batch of baked corn and chickpea tortilla chips
Put the cashew nuts into a bowl and cover them with cold water. Leave them to soak until using.
Put the dried black beans into a pan and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let them simmer until cooked. Depending on the age of the beans, this may take 60-90 minutes; start checking for doneness after 45 minutes. When cooked, drain the beans and set them aside until using.
Heat the oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6. Mix the sweet potato chunks with the oil and spread them over a lined baking sheet. Season them with the paprika, ground cumin, salt and pepper. Roast the sweet potato for 35-40 minutes until the pieces are tender and caramellised.
Heat a griddle pan until piping hot. Put the corn cobs into the pan as they are; they don’t need to be rubbed with oil. Turning them regularly, cook them until tender, bright yellow and evenly covered with nice charred lines. Once cooked, transfer them to a chopping board. Leave them to cool a little, then cut away the kernels.
Tip the soaked cashew nuts into a sieve and rinse them well in cold running water. Drain, then put them in a high bowl. Squeeze over one half of the lime, then add the coriander leaves, the water and salt to taste. Using a stick blender, whizz until smooth and bright green. If the sauce is too thick to your liking, just add a little more water and adjust the seasoning.
Halve the avocados and remove the stones. Peel, then slice them. Squeeze the remaining half of the lime over the avocado slices.
Divide the arugula over four plates or bowls and top it with the drained black beans, the roasted sweet potato, the sweetcorn, the avocado slices and a generous dollop of the cashew cream. Serve with the baked tortilla chips.