Layer up on black beans for a Mexican side dish with a punch

Lilly Higgins: Success requires quality ingredients, so get some sun-soaked tomatoes and bright fresh herbs

 

The first time I had any type of layered Mexican dip was in New York when I was sixteen. I was working as an au pair minding four gorgeous kids and had just finished my Leaving Cert. The layered dip was the height of sophistication to me, having come from rural Ireland where my usual summer job was potato picking on my uncle’s farm. I remember the kids’ mother wrote the recipe on an envelope for me and I kept it for years. Her dip involved opening lots of packets and layering the grated cheddar cheese, smooth guacamole, mashed beans, sour cream and salsa. It was assembled like a trifle with multi-coloured stripes of flavour.

There were several layers and it was her favourite thing to make for parties. A few weeks ago I was having a barbecue and we needed one more salad. I raided the pantry and fridge and soon found myself frying beans and chopping up tomatoes, recreating the Mexican-style dip. I use some cooling creamy feta and add fiery jalapenos to my salsa, this is a million miles from the original dish that sparked it’s inspiration but it’s really delicious.

This is very much a sociable starter; A dip for sharing with tortilla chips or perfect for serving as a side dish to a flame-grilled steak. I’ve even had leftovers for breakfast with a crispy fried egg on top and a few extra slices of avocado. It tastes divine the following day rolled into a burrito and dry fried on a hot pan.

You could use red kidney beans for this dish too but I love the dramatic black colour and creaminess of these beans. If you can’t get a perfectly ripe avocado, then you could buy some ready-made guacamole and dollop some of that on top. I love the freshness and simplicity of plain avocado though. As with all recipes, the success of this dish relies on the quality of the ingredients, so get some sun-soaked tomatoes and bright fresh herbs.

Layered Black Beans

Serves 4-6

For the salsa:

180g cherry tomatoes, diced

½ red or yellow pepper, diced

½ red onion, finely diced

10g coriander, chopped

1 tbsp. finely chopped jalapeno pepper

Juice of ½ lime

2 tbsp. olive oil

Sea salt

For the beans:

1 tbsp. olive oil

½ red onion, finely diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 x 400g tins cooked black beans, drained and rinsed

Juice of ½ lime

10g coriander, chopped

Sea salt

150g feta

1 avocado, roughly diced

Mix all of the ingredients for the salsa together. Season to taste. Set aside to let the flavours develop.

Place 1 tbsp. olive oil into a pan over a medium heat. Sauté the onion till soft, then add the garlic and cook for a further few minutes. Add the drained beans and 120ml water. Simmer for 10 minutes while stirring so the beans don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat. Season with a little salt and add the juice of ½ lime. Mash with a potato masher but do leave a little texture, you don’t want a smooth puree. Fold in the chopped coriander and taste. Add a little more lime juice or salt if you feel it needs it. Remember that it will be topped with salty feta and loads of flavour so don’t worry too much if it tastes a little basic. Spoon the bean mash onto a wide plate or platter in a large circle. Crumble the feta on top. Next add the chopped avocado followed by the tomato salsa. Serve right away with a bowl of tortilla chips or leave to cool a little and serve at room temperature.

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