CAZUELA: COLOMBIAN BEAN STEW
On a cold winter’s day, it is so perfect to make a beef stew that you can share with friends to warm everyone up, especially when camping and the weather is a bit cold. Cazuela will cheer everyone up. It’s even better if you have cooked this the past 3 years running and your friends are thinking you do not have much imagination or flexibility in the kitchen. That is where this recipe comes in, it is a very popular dish in Colombia that actually is eaten in any weather (yes even on a stinking hot day) and is full of flavour and heartiness.
Now this recipe might scare you as it needs some preparation the day before, but it is all worth it. Buying dry beans and soaking and cooking them with special ingredients brings the most important ‘exotic’ flavour to this meal. However if you have a craving to eat this right away and have no time for soaking anything, then perhaps a replacement would be refried beans or chilli con carne in a can. You should try to add water to these and simmer until it has become more of a soup.
If you are going to do it the traditional way then you need a pressure cooker, or it is going to take a very long time to get the beans soft unless you soak them the day before. I like to put them in a bag and start soaking them in advance in the esky.
FRIJOLES (BEAN) RECIPE
500g pinto, kidney or red beans (dry, not canned gives the best results)
1 block of chicken or beef stock
1 small onion, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 tbsp. butter
9 cups of water
1/4 cup chopped coriander
Soak the beans in water overnight, and then drain them and put them in the pressure cooker with the water, stock and carrots. When the carrots are soft, take them out with a little of the soup and mix in the blender, then put them back in the pot.
In a separate pan, fry the onion, tomato and butter. Once the beans are soft, add this ‘hogao’ sauce to the pot. Top with the coriander.
1 cup cooked white rice
4 strips fried bacon
2 fried plantains, or if unavailable, fried sweet potatoes (chopped into bite-size pieces)
4 chorizos, sliced and fried
500g cooked ground beef
1 cup cooked corn
1 potato, shredded finely and fried
3 avocados, diced
4 small ‘arepas’, or if unavailable, any bread that will soak up soup
Salt and pepper to taste
All these toppings should be fried separately with vegetable oil in a pan. If you want the bacon to not stick together you could add some flour. Another idea is to cook the bacon first and keep the juices in the pan to cook the other ingredients.
Your dish should be a deep soup bowl, which is actually what ‘cazuela’ means! The order you should present the meal is to first pour in the bean soup, then top with some rice, then the bacon, chorizo, beef, plantain, corn and potato should be placed around as if each were a flavour of a pizza slice. Then the avocado goes on top. The arepa or bread will be served on the side.
You can also make it a bit spicy and have it more like a Mexican stew. That’s great for staying warm or sweating it out to stay cool in the summer.
Do you have a special twist for a winter stew? Share your comments below.