It’s the last weekend of the month again, folks, and I’m sure you know what that means by now. It’s recipe time.
This february’s main dish, however, isn’t entirely my own. It’s an adaptation of one of Sorted Food’s latest and, if you haven’t heard of them, I strongly suggest that you check out their 📽️ baked potato recipe video 📽️ before continuing.
They’re a great fun channel, fully focussed on food, with the knowledge of professional chefs but far more of a down to earth approach. I’ve been hooked on them for months.
Yet, for the first time today, I feel like I’m qualified to take on one of their recipes and give my own twist. Maybe even improve it. Because real mexican food has been passed down to me, through the generations, from real mexican chefs. And chillies, well, they’re kind of my thing.
So, for this month’s recipe, I’m taking their sweet potato stuffed with refried beans and giving it what they would call a “level up”!
Before I begin, however, I want to address a few of the changes that I’m making:
For their chillies, they use a jalapeño and there’s nothing wrong with that. Traditionally mexican, not very hot, should add a nice green chilli flavour.
Me, though, I’m going to go a tad fancier. Now that padrons are readily available in UK supermarkets, I have no reason not to use them and their earthier, nuttier, green chilli flavour is going to pair even better with our earthy bean blend and its herbs.
I recommend at least two, since they’re rarely hot and we’re really just using them for flavour. You can definitely push it further if you want to make their flavour more prominent, though.
And, speaking of the heat, they used a small amount of red chilli powder in their recipe, claiming that they didn’t want to overdo it.
That seems silly to me. Why, when paprika exists, would you use generic red chilli for this recipe?
To keep the heat of my version to its absolute most accessible, I’ll be using proper, spanish paprika for its earthy, smoked notes and the bold red pepper flavour to contrast with the, otherwise quite green, blend of chillies and herbs.
Should you want a more fiery experience, I don’t recommend red chilli powder. It just doesn’t have the same boldness of flavour. Instead, try hot paprika or, if you’re feeling particularly daring, ghost pepper powder.
Now that I’ve changed up the chilli, though, I want to tweak the oil to match. Sorted fried their dish in nothing but a full tablespoon of butter – A vegetarian alternative to lard – and it worked for their dish but, now that I’m using padrons, a slight change is needed to bring out the full potential of my version.
Why? Because padrons are at their very best when fried in an equally earthy and nutty mustard oil to highlight their unique qualities. There’s just one catch: Mustard oil isn’t considered food safe in the US or EU.
Products with mustard oil in, like the Love Pickle range that we saw recently, are and its traditional use in indian cooking heavily implies that it’s not going to do you any harm. Yet studies in the nineteen seventies did demonstrate a negative effect on the hearts of some animals from its high erucic acid content.
It has never been show to hurt humans and, as I’ve said, it’s been used by them a lot. But, if you’re still (understandably) uncomfortable with the idea of using a non-food product in your cooking, there are mustard and rapeseed oil blends available that bring its acid content down to within regulation amounts.
You may, however, have a little more trouble finding them than finding regular mustard oil. Which is in just about every indian supermarket and many other ones as well.
And, if you do use a blend, I’d suggest using two teaspoons instead of one, to be sure that you get the full flavour benefit.
But, speaking of small additions to tweak the flavour, I have another for you: Star Anise.
A single star-shaped seed pod of this spice brings out the natural sweetness of our onions, taking the edge off of just how savoury our bean mix could be, and also aids in its eventual earthiness. It adds some subtle, woody tones without any obvious licorice element so, even if you don’t normally like the spice, I doubt you’ll disagree with me using it here.
And finally, I’ve swapped out there pinto beans for kidney beans. Why? Because they’re traditional in whatever subsection of mexico my cooking originally came from. Because they’re what I know. And, quite simply, because I couldn’t find pinto ones.
I cannot say for sure which variety would be truly optimal for this recipe.
But, with all of my decisions now outlined above, here’s the recipe that I eventually crafted. You will need:
3 sweet potatoes
3 cloves of garlic
800g kidney beans
1 large brown onion
2 padron peppers
5 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon mustard oil (or 2 of a rapeseed blend)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon salt
1 star of anise
1 handful fresh coriander leaves
3 tablespoons sour cream
And black peppercorn and feta cheese to taste
Of course, we’re going to start by baking the sweet potatoes because they take the longest out of anything here. Give their skins a wash, a scrub and a good poke with a knife, to get rid of any dirt and make sure that they don’t pop. Then pop them into a preheated oven.
Now, depending on who you ask, this segment will take a completely different length of time because it depends entirely on the size of the potatoes. Whatever size Sorted were working with, however, was clearly smaller than mine because mine took an hour to soften throughout at 200°c, not three quarters at 180.
Hopefully my ingredients photo can give you a sense of scale there because, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the minimum size for a filling single potato per portion meal. Though I do suppose that appetites will also vary.
So, moving swiftly along, let’s get on with our filling, shall we?
Here, we’re going to start like they do – By pealing our garlic and onion, then chopping both up with the chillies. Only, unlike them, I don’t have a sponsorship deal with a blender company, so I’m going to have to chop mine rather finer. And the blending’s going to take a little longer.
My more budget model will still do the job, though, and, once it’s done, we can get to frying up the results.
To do so, we’re going to warm up our mustard oil and melt two teaspoons of the butter on a medium heat, before we add in the onion mix, salt and star anise. Once all of that’s in the pan, we’re going to keep stirring it to ensure that no part burns or caramelises, as we keep cooking for ten minutes to remove the sharp, raw onion pungency.
Next, fish out the star anise – It’s done its job – and swap in your paprika to replace it, stirring the powder through for another couple of minutes to ensure proper uptake of its flavour. After which, it’s time for the beans.
I’ve recently discovered that it’s not actually necessary to drain canned kidney beans, since they come pre-soaked and pre-cooked to remove any toxins, so it’s up to you if you want to do so. Removing that starchy liquid does prevent any possibility of a metallic taste from the can but it’s rare for that to come through, anyway.
Whichever you decide, though, just know that I drained mine, before adding almost enough new water to the pan to cover them. From there, I stirred everything together and raised the heat to a simmer.
I simmered the bean mix for ten minutes, stirring the whole while but also lightly mashing the beans down. To create a gradient texture of bean mush, whole beans and everything in between, just as I grew up doing. Not just a mix of the two extremes.
Before today, my refried beans have never involved a blender and, while it certainly helped with all of my Sorted Food inspired additions, I don’t intend to bring one in at this stage. Not for the beans, themselves.
But perhaps it would be good for the next part – To finely shred the handful of herbs that the dish requires. Ones that will then be stirred through and warmed into the dish, yet never truly cooked into it, so that the coriander’s freshness can really shine.
And yes, the end result is super herby, but that’s definitely part of the appeal. A fresh yet earthy blend of coriander and beans with a whole load of nuance from its other ingredients. One which pairs far better with the equally earthy, yet much less savoury taste of the potatoes that we’ll be putting it on. Hopefully they’re ready by now.
When they are, simply cut them open, spread with the remainder of the butter and assemble the toppings. First, a good heaping dose of bean mix. Second, the sour cream. And third, the optional extras of black pepper and feta.
Here’s how mine looked fully done:
The smooth, cool, refrigerated dairy providing a much appreciated, if not actually needed, contrast to the warm, soft-grain texture of the potatoes or the many stages of bean mush in the main topping.
It’s not crucial and you can even go vegan if you use a coconut mousse instead, cut out the butter and fry entirely in oil. But it is a very welcome addition.
It does not help with the burn at all, though. For the simple reason that there’s almost none for it to dull. The compiled dish is too mild to even register on my palate, earning it what I call a
but, if I really concentrate, some tiny tingle of spice comes through if I eat the beans alone. And maybe, just maybe, it could reach a
in the unlikely event that both of its peppers were hot ones. Because, while no padron is very hot, some do have a significant kick on occasion.
It’s a tad weaker than I was expecting but I don’t mind it at all. I have plenty of sauces to add if I really need to feel the chilli and this just makes it more accessible, if you ask me.
So, in the end, I just want to say thank you, once again, to my inspiration for this dish: Sorted Food.
Yes, I feel like they did a few things wrong. I feel like chilli powder over paprika was a mistake. I don’t think a blender was the best way to mash their beans. And I don’t think that this dish is anywhere near as suited to working with regular potatoes as it is with sweet potatoes, despite their claims.
But I also feel like it’s far easier to nitpick after the event than it is to come up with a winning recipe and, minorly flawed as I believe theirs to be, Sorted’s dish was still wonderful and my own could never have existed without it.
Plus, chilli and bean-based mexican food is something that I grew up on. I’m far more qualified to tweak it than just about anything else that they’ve made. And, even so, if authenticity is what you want, then their creation has me beat.
Go give their 📽️ youtube channel 📽️ a watch. They have multiple videos every week, all recipes, tastings or other informative food content, and they really know how to make them entertaining.
I’m a big fan of theirs and they definitely put my own youtube exploits to shame!