How did Advent begin already? I am not expecting Christmas! Advent comes as the unexpected expected period of waiting. I still think summer was yesterday and that I have all the time in the world to accomplish the tasks I have set myself to be completed before the holidays. Perhaps that is why this morning I was caught up by this:
Rise up! Flee your preoccupations for a little while. Hide yourself for a time from your turbulent thoughts. Cast aside, now, your heavy responsibilities and put off your burdensome business. Make a little space free for God; and rest for a little time in him.
This is St. Anselm reminding us that every now and then we all need to take a break. The fact is, that break is often going to come at the same time as Christmas - the holidays. Advent, the time of preparation, whisks past us and we long for those moments of preciousness we share with our loved ones - a few snatched hours perhaps, or the time to write a love-filled letter. These are the treasures with which I celebrate Christmas. Advent, preparing to celebrate the great feast of love and light, is for me a time of longing. I feel more keenly my absence from those I want to spend my time with most. I feel the toll that busy - ness takes upon my life, I feel its cost. Advent is my time to re-align, to begin to set aside time to be with friends and family, a time to be with those I love, a time to be with God. Often, such time does is not possible before school breaks for the holidays, almost always a week before the 25th December. By that stage I am truly grateful for the rest and for the pleasure that being with friends and family gives.
When time finally comes I want to cook something slowly, and in the run up to Christmas I hate diets. So I offer you: Frijoles Refritos
I offer this because because it is the tastiest food I have eaten with friends when I last had the time to give them the time they deserve.
600g cooked black beans, with the cooking liquid reserved
50g butter or olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped coriander roots and leaves
1 few fresh bay leaves
50g Lancashire Cheese, crumbled
Fresh coriander leaves
a knob of butter
Whiz the beans with a stick blender, adding just enough of the reserved cooking liquid to get a smooth, fairly thick puree.
Heat the fat in a heavy bottomed pan, and when it is gently foaming, add the onion. Season well with salt and pepper and sweat the onion until it is soft. Add the garlic, chilli and herbs, cooking further for a few minutes.
Add the pureed beans to the onion and cook for another 10 minutes, turning down the heat after a few minutes to very low and stirring constantly. Add the cooking liquid as required to keep a smooth puree that falls from a wooden spoon easily. Taste a season again.
Season with sour cream, and scatter with crumbled cheese and fresh coriander leaves. Serve with tortilla chips, and all the other delicious things you can think of.
Wait patiently and seize the day. Take every moment that you can with your loved ones. Every second you have with them is a moment of preparation.
Cooking Black Beans
This takes 2 - 3 hours, but it is worth it.
250g Dried Black Beans
4 cloves of Garlic, bashed with a rolling pin
A few sprigs of Thyme
A few Bay leaves
fresh epazote or 1/4 teaspoon anise seeds (optional)
1 onion cut into quarters
1 tablespoon Sea Salt
Rinse the beans well in cold water and drain. If you have the time you can soak the beans overnight, which will reduce the overall cooking time. Place the beans in a large pan and cover with at keast 10cms of cold water.
Add the garlic, herbs and onion. Bring the water to the boil. Cook the beans until they are just soft, topping them up with boiling water if the water looks like it is boiling off, and skimming off any white foam that gathers on the surface. this can take anything from 2 - 3 hours, depending on whether you have soaked the beans overnight or not. At this stage, season the beans with salt and continue to cook for another 15 - 20 minutes so that beans absorb the flavour. If you add the salt at an earlier stage it prevents the beans from softening.
Drain the beans and remove the herbs, onion and garlic. Use as in recipe above. Enjoy.