While I was in Costa Rica, one of my favourite foods was gallo pinto. It’s a simple dish with rice and beans that is often served for breakfast. I have adapted this recipe for gallo pinto from Costa Rica Guide. If you are in Costa Rica, you can find fresh black beans. However, in the United Kingdom it is easiest to find tinned black beans. The dried black beans are also available, usually either at health food or Indian shops. Some may say that using the tinned beans is cheating and compromises flavour. I think it’s a trade-off between time and authentic taste. The tinned can version is still tasty!
Although this dish is typically served for breakfast, I like to eat it throughout the day. It goes well as a side dish for BBQs. When re-heating the rice, it tastes best if it’s reheated in a pan with a little more oil. It gets a little crispy and seems to have more flavour.
450g dried black beans or 2 x 400g tins of black beans
8-10 sprigs fresh cilantro (or coriander)
1 medium onion
½ small red or yellow sweet pepper
3 cups (700 ml) chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups medium or long grain white rice
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp oil for frying
If beans are dried, put them into a large pot, cover with water and soak overnight. Drain the beans and add fresh water to an inch (2.5 cm) above the top of the beans and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce heat to very low simmer until beans are soft (~3 hours). Add salt. If the beans are from a can then you can skip this step. For the tinned beans, reserve the water to add to the rice at the end.
First, chop the cilantro, onion, and sweet pepper very fine.
Next, add 1 Tablespoon oil to a large pan and sauté the dry rice for 2 minutes over medium high flame then add half of the chopped onion, sweet pepper and cilantro and sauté another 2 minutes. Then add the chicken or vegetable broth, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to simmer until rice is tender (20-35 minutes).
Keep about a cup of the “black water” with the beans. This is what gives the rice its colour and some of its flavour. Sauté the rice, beans, reserved chopped onion, sweet pepper and cilantro together in vegetable oil for a few minutes over medium-high heat. Add salt to taste. Finally, sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro just before serving.
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