Costa Rica, despite a fantastic start, is perhaps not the most likely candidate to win the World Cup Finals, at least not this time. A rather small county in Central America, it boasts tropical rain forests, beautiful beaches, and a rather oddly named national dish: gallo pinto literally translates to ‘spotted chicken’, despite the fact that it does not contain any. This makes it the perfect dish for closet vegetarians.
I was given the link to the recipe on ‘The Perfect Pantry‘ by my former flatmate, a proud tico, as Costa Ricans call themselves, with whom I shared a flat in Belfast many years ago. As you would expect from people from tropical countries he was incredibly relaxed and always cheerful, he loved music and watching documentaries about aliens. The only time I would see him upset or even angry would be over the fact that aliens never abducted anyone from Costa Rica, preferring instead, without fail, to probe and experiment on people from the Midwest of the United States. There was little we could do to console him, other than remind him that he was still young and there was still hope for him. As there is, I suppose, for the Costa Rican team to make it into the final…
Gallo Pinto (serves 4)
- 2 cups cooked black beans, plus 1 cup bean cooking liquid (can be made in advance)
- 3 cups cooked long-grain white rice, cooled (can be made in advance)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup diced celery
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaf
- 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
- 1/2 tsp fresh black pepper, to taste
- chopped coriander (cilantro)
Ideally you prepare the rice and black beans a day or so in advance, following the instructions on the pack. I soaked the beans overnight in cold water, rinsed them and cooked them for 15 minutes in the pressure cooker (45 minutes in an ordinary pan, according to the pack). Keep one cup (260 ml) of the liquid.
If you want to use tinned black beans, simply collect some of the liquid before giving the beans a rinse.
Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Fry the onions for a few minutes, taking care they don’t brown: you just want them slightly see-through. Add the pepper and celery and fry for another 3 minutes, before adding the garlic and thyme.
Finally add the beans and the bean liquid, stirring carefully so they don’t get all mashed up. Once the liquid is simmering and the beans are heated up, add the rice: you might need to use your hands to break up the clumps in order to ensure an evenly spotted dish. Season generously with salt and pepper and sprinkle the coriander over it before serving.
‘The Perfect Pantry explains that in Costa Rica, this dish is generally served for breakfast, with fried eggs and plantains. But you can also have it for lunch or dinner, with fish or meat. According to my sources it is served with salsa lizano, which is similar to brown sauce (HP sauce). I liked the sweetness it added, and I really enjoyed the different textures of the soft beans and the crisp peppers. But instead of a breakfast dish it will make an excellent midweek wonder!
If you enjoyed this and are looking for an team to support now that England has been sent packing, Costa Rica might be an alternative. Check out Technollama‘s beginner’s guide to supporting Costa Rica!