Now that I'm working over in west London, one of my favourite lunch haunts is Wahaca, the Mexican canteena founded by the lovely Tommi Miers, winner of Masterchef a couple of years back. I knew nothing about real Mexican food (except that I love what Wahaca serve up), so I snapped up Tommi's book when it came out, and I'm now suffering from a severe refried beans addiction. Can't stop making them, can't stop eating them.
Refried beans are actually well cooked beans. Speckled pinto beans are an option, but I adore black turtle beans. I tip the dried beans into a big bowl and cover them with just-boiled water for a couple of hours. Then they go into a saucepan with a halved onion, a couple of bay leaves, four cloves of garlic, a handful of thyme and, if you can get it, some epazote, a Mexican herb that loves beans. After a couple of hours, the beans are soft and starting to shed their skins. At this point, I turn off the heat and add a tablespoonful of salt.
Another way to go is to buy the excellent Cool Chile Company's Black Bean kit, which I tracked down at their Borough market stall, or you can order it online. Cool Chile have epazote and chile de arbol in their kit, and also include the brick-coloured smoked paprika, which has become an essential ingrediant for my refrieds.
Once your beans are soft, it's time to fry some chopped onion and garlic in lard (yes, lard - first time I've bought it in ages), then add the beans and the paprika. Tommi recommends using a stick blender but I go with the more primative potato masher to get the beans into a delicious mashed mush.
Now you're ready to assemble the beans for eating - often in warmed corn tortillas but in this dressed-down version, with crumbled Lancashire cheese, chipoltle salsa, chopped coriander and sour cream.
It looks murky. It tastes delicious. Your refried beans will last for five days in the fridge - perfect for a working week of quick and tasty suppers.
At the front of June, when it was cold and utterly unsummery, I cooked up Tommi's unMexican but delicious chile with meat. Except I used stewing steak from Muck and Magic rather than the larger cut that Tommi recommends. The spice and herb mix is the key here: cumin, allspice, cinnamon, bay and oregano combine with my idiosyncratic addition of a deseeded ancho chile, together with cider vinegar, ketchup and brown sugar to make a stunning sauce for the meat. It went into the oven for a long, slow cook, then I left it for overnight so that the meat was incredibly tender.