Popular Caribbean side dish made with white rice, sweet coconut milk and earthy black beans, flavoured with thyme. Nutritious, delicious and easy to make.
Rice and beans (or rice and peas) is a popular staple in central and southern America. When grains and pulses are eaten together they form a complete protein – that is, they contain all 9 of the essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own. This makes rice and beans an excellent dish for vegans. My recipe uses black turtle beans, but you can swap these for any black or red bean, such as kidney beans or pinto beans. The coconut milk coats the grains of rice in fat, which adds a luxuriously rich mouthfeel. I find this combination of starch, protein and fat irresistible. However, some people do not like the sweet flavour of coconut. You can reduce the amount of coconut milk by half if you want a more savoury flavour, or swap it out entirely. Simply replace three-quarters of the amount with water or stock (less liquid is needed since coconut milk contains fat, which is not absorbed during cooking). For example, replace 200ml of coconut milk with 150ml of liquid, or 400ml of coconut milk with 300ml of liquid.
Tips & Tricks
- Do not stir the during cooking – this releases starch, which results in gluey rice
- Do not remove the lid during cooking – this allows the steam to escape, which slows the cooking time
- Use a transparent pan lid – you can check how much water is left simply by tilting the pan and seeing how much water pools at the side
- Leave to rest covered with a tea towel – this dries the rice by absorbing the steam, and stopping the condensation from dripping back onto the rice
- Fluff with a fork – the tines separate the grains without mashing them
- 1 can (400g) black beans (aka turtle beans) / 100g dried black beans
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 onion (130g), peeled and finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 cups (300g) long grain white rice
- 1 whole bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 400ml (1 can) coconut milk
- 1 1/4 cups (300ml) bean liquid (if you don’t have enough, make up the shortfall with water)
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Prepare the beans.
- If using canned beans: drain the beans and reserve the liquid.
- if using dried beans: place the beans in a bowl and cover with a generous amount of cold water. Leave to soak for 8 hours. Drain, rinse, and then transfer to a saucepan with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally – about 1 hour. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid.
- Saute the onion and garlic. Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry until translucent but not brown, stirring occasionally – about 5 minutes. Add the garlic fry for 1 minute. Add the rice, bay leaf and thyme. Give everything a good stir and fry for 3 minutes, stirring once.
- Cook the rice. Add the coconut milk, bean liquid and beans. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt if you used dried beans, but 1 teaspoon if you used canned beans. Give the whole lot a good stir, then cover with a tight-fitting lid. Heat over a high heat and bring to the boil – about 5-6 minutes. Immediately turn the heat down to the lowest setting. Leave to cook, undisturbed, until all the water has been absorbed – about 25 minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Remove the lid and cover quickly with a clean tea towel. Place the lid back on top and leave to stand for 5-10 minutes.
- Fluff up the rice grains with a fork and serve.