Sunday, 8 February 2015

Black Bean Chilli with Corn Tortillas

I had a sudden urge to use my Tortilla-press again. I haven't used it for far too long!

I suppose that in certain parts of the world these things are considered very commonplace and boring, but I bet there aren't too many households in the UK that possess one!

Fortunately we also possess a "tava" (aka "comal") which cooks chapattis and tortillas very effectively.

My recipe today is anything but authentic Mexican, but it is certainly inspired by the Mexican cuisine. This is "Mexican-style Beef and Black Bean Chilli with Corn Tortillas".

For the chilli
250g minced beef
100g Black Beans, soaked overnight in water, then cooked
100g Sweet Corn, tinned or frozen
2 fresh hot chillis, thickly sliced (de-seeded if desired)
3 large Spring Onions, sliced
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
1 teaspoon hot chilli powder (adjust according to taste)
Half teaspoon ground Cumin
1 litre beef stock
Few drops of Gravy Browning (optional - for extra colour only)
Oil for frying - approx. 1 Tbsp
Salt and Pepper to taste

For tortillas (quantities for approx. eight 6-inch tortillas)
100g Fine cornmeal (in the UK also known as Polenta)
100g Plain flour
Pinch of Baking Powder
Water - as required

Brown the mince in a small quantity of oil
Cook the onions in a small quantity of oil
Put meat, onions, beans, herbs, spices, chillis and stock into a deep, lidded ovenproof dish. Stir well
Add Gravy Browning if using
Add salt and pepper to taste
Cook at 150C for two hours
Add Sweet Corn and stir in well

Cook for another 15 mins to ensure corn is heated through

Meanwhile, make the tortillas...
Mix cornmeal and flour together
Add Baking Powder (this will make the dough a little lighter)
Add water in very small amounts until possible to form a firm dough

Form dough into small balls about the size of a golf ball

Flatten the balls to make discs approx. 6" in diameter (I used my tortilla-press for this). This photo is of one of my first ones. It is a bit ragged, and I'm not proud of it. I did make some better ones!

You can see that I lined the tortilla-press with a plastic bag to stop it sticking. Something like this is necessary, since the dough is quite soft. I imagine that with proper "Masa harina" the dough would be firmer and easier to work with. Getting the tortilla off the press and onto the comal is the hardest part of the lot.

Anyway: cook each disc separately on the tava / comal or whatever, flipping once to ensure both sides are cooked.

Some nice brown blistered bits are desirable!

Shortly before serving, I put the Spring Onions into the chilli:

I also made a salsa with de-seeded tomato, red onion and avocado, with lots of Parsley, to add a cooling element to the meal.

So here is a serving of the chilli, garnished with "faux Coriander", i.e. flat-leaf Parsley.

Regular readers will know that I can't eat leaf Coriander, but I think a bit of green garnish does look nice.

The verdict: the chilli was very nice. Lots of flavour and just the right level of heat. The tortillas on the other hand were too firm (tough!) for my liking. I would have preferred them to be a bit softer. I must get some authentic masa harina, because I expect this is what makes the difference. It is available in the UK from specialist suppliers, but seldom found in a supermarket. It's also hideously expensive here! This dish would of course be equally good served with rice, by the way.


  1. Our family eats lots of black beans!! So, I'm always looking for new recipe. This looks very delicious...I will substitute some frozen hot chillis from the summer garden and give it a try!

  2. I think we should call you Mr. Gadget

    1. I'll treat that as a compliment. A skilled craftsman knows the value of using the correct tool for the job..!

  3. Greetings from South Texas! I'd be happy to enjoy this any time.

    1. Hi Sandy; I wonder if this is anything like what you guys cook? Please feel free to send me a recipe!

  4. I love this kind of cooking.. and I love your tortilla press, how gorgeous is that?!?.. a lovely meal.

  5. Looks delicious! I'm one of the few that is lucky enough to also have a tortilla press, although I haven't used it in ages either. You've inspired me to dust it off & make some nice, hot tortillas. Thankfully, masa harina is available here at pretty much any grocery store - we Canadian's do love our Mexican food!

  6. It looks lovely. Is there any gadget you don't have in your kitchen?

  7. I buy masa harina on the internet. Where I grew up you could get it in the supermarkets. My mom had a tortilla press but I just use the bottom of a frying pan, then a rolling pin. One of the tricks to making a tortilla is what you do afterwards. I put it in a round short container with a towel underneath. As I cook them I put them in with the lid on top. This steams the tortilla after cooking and makes it soft. Also the water that I use to mix it is added hot. I'm not sure how much it changes it, but it is the way I was taught. I wish I had your comal but I have limited space in the kitchen. Not too many specialty items are allowed. I use my cast iron skillet.

  8. Wow..amazing. Very tempting tortillas :)

  9. Looks good Mark. I think making tortillas like anything else will improve with practice. I love how they smell when they are cooking.


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