The beauty of this recipe is that no one ever misses meat if it’s not in the dish. As long as you have the red beans and the rice, you have delivered what the name promises and people are satisfied. The pecans mimic cooked pork bits, and the oil adds the richness people expect from this meal, not to mention rice seasoned so well it could stand alone as a dish. I think the Bourbon adds a nice smokiness, but then again I am from Kentucky, where Bourbon flows like the mighty Ohio River.
For the beans
60ml refined coconut oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
2 ribs celery, finely diced, leaves reserved for garnish
40g chopped pecans
1 tbsp Cajun/Creole seasoning
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 bay leaves
455g kidney beans, soaked for 24 hours and drained
1 tbsp hot sauce
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
3-4 tbsp Bourbon Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the rice
1 tbsp refined coconut oil
185g long-grain rice
1 head Roasted Garlic (recipe follows), cloves removed from the skins
½ tsp liquid smoke
½ tsp kosher salt
360ml warm water
To make the beans
Melt the coconut oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Once it is melted, add the onion, red pepper, and celery and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the pecans and sauté until they are dark brown, 2-3 minutes more. Add the Cajun/Creole seasoning, garlic powder, ground thyme, white pepper, and bay leaves. Stir to coat. Add the beans and 2 litres water. Cover and cook over medium heat until the beans are just about al dente, 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes.
Uncover, stir in the hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and Bourbon, and cook until the broth thickens, the beans are tender, and the liquid has reduced by half, about 20 minutes more.
Meanwhile, make the rice
Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2. Melt the coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once it is melted, add the rice, roasted garlic, liquid smoke, and salt and stir to combine. Sauté over medium heat until all the rice is coated with butter.
Add the warm water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed, 18-22 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.
Remove the bay leaves from the bean pot. Season the beans with salt and black pepper. Spoon over the rice and garnish with celery leaves.
Making roasted garlic is simple and adds tonnes of sweet garlic flavour to dishes. I always have a few heads of roasted garlic in my fridge. You can also use pre-peeled garlic cloves that you find at the store. I roast up a large amount and then freeze the cloves in plastic zipper bags so I always have them on hand.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Cut the top off of a garlic head, exposing the cloves but leaving the head intact. Set the head on a large piece of aluminium foil, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Wrap up the foil to make a pouch and bake until the garlic is soft, 35-40 minutes. Let cool before using.
Reduce the coconut oil to 2 tbsp. Replace the pecans in the recipe with 50g diced tasso ham. It is a spicy, fatty ham, popular in Louisiana. If you can’t find tasso, you can replace it with country ham or bacon. All the steps and cooking times remain the same.
Extracted from Southern Girl Meets Vegetarian Boy by Damaris Phillips (Abrams, approx €22.50)
Photograph © 2017 Stephanie Mullins