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Music – “El Condor Pasa (From: Peru)” from Latin Panpipe Favourites by Ray Hamilton Orchestra. Released: 2008
In a wonderful shop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I recently discovered “Pussac Punay Andean Heritage Beans”. “Pussac Punay” are beans native to the Peruvian Andes and comprise about 20 different varieties of beans that have similar growth cycles and are planted together, as they have been for generations. In the native language of the region, Quechua, “Pussac Punay” means the “Sleeping Eight”, as each pod contains 8 beans.
The beans are produced by the Farmers Association of Huancavelica and Cajamarca in Peru. The producer, “Zocalo” works with several associations of farmers, who use organic cultivation practices. In addition, they are trying to enable those farmers to sell their products for a fair market price. “Zocalo” bills itself as “A Culinary Collective Company” (www.zocalogourmet.com). According to the Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation (SOFI)(formerly NASFT Product Awards), the Pussac Punay beans were a 2011 Silver Finalist for Outstanding New Product. (Note: Zocalo advertises the beans as “gluten free”)
I decided to try their basic recipe from the box:
1 cup Pussac Punay Beans, dry
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoon Zocalo aji amarillo powder
(you can substitute some other hot dried chile powder (I used New Mexico jalapeno plus some fresh chopped habanero)
Soak the beans in cold water for 6 to 8 hours (see my note below). Drain, rinse and cook in 4 cups of fresh water in a covered pot until tender (approximately 2 hours). Add the remaining ingredients once the beans have begun to simmer.
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What I found out was that soaking for 6 to 8 hours was nowhere near enough time to soften the beans even a tad. I left them overnight for a total soak time of about 15 hours. In addition, the 2 hours of cooking (until tender) was extended to about 3 ½, but that’s probably more due to the Albuquerque altitude thing.
The beans have a rich, lusty flavour cooked this way. Despite the beautiful array of colours and patterns on the beans (see photos), after cooking, they all seem to become the same homogenous brown colour. They are flavourful, however and I would recommend that you try some next time you have a craving for a bean dish.
Of interest might be two Peruvian cookbooks in my collection: “The Exotic Kitchens of Peru” by Copeland Marks, and “The Everything Peruvian Cookbook” by Morena Cuadra and Morena Escardo, both of which feature dried bean recipes. “The Everything Peruvian Cookbook” has a number of recipes including “Bean Escabeche”, “Bean Soup”, “Capchi”, “Fava Bean Chupe”, “Frejol Colado” (Sweet Bean Confection), “Lima Bean Manjarblanco”, “Mashed Canary Beans” and more. Give one a try!