Cuban-inspired Beef, Red & Black Bean Stew, 95p | 15 Minutes | One Pan | JACK MONROE

This recipe was originally a vegan one, so it would be very easy to switch it back if that’s your preferred option, simply by taking out the stewed steak and using a vegetable stock cube instead of a beef or chicken one. I had a can of stewed steak nearing its expiry date lurking at the back of the cupboard, so decided to adapt it to this version, and then tinkered around with it a little. As ever, if you don’t have black beans or kidney beans to hand, a can of cheap baked beans with the sauce rinsed off will work just as well – and for around half the price! If you are organised enough to soak dried beans the night beforehand to knock even more off the price, then they will need a rapid boil for around 20 minutes and a thorough rinse to get them to their canned counterparts levels of tenderness, which means this would no longer be a 15 minute recipe, but I try to give as many options as possible depending on what you may have available or prefer to use! If you don’t have stock cubes to hand, a heaped tablespoon of instant gravy is a fine substitute here.



EQUIPMENT: Sharp knife, large nonstick pan, spoon, can opener, sieve or colander (optional, you can decant the kidney beans into a larger bowl, cover in cold water, stir to remove any gunk, and then carefully insert a side plate down the side of the bowl and tip the water away down the sink – it takes a steady hand but its workable!)

Serves 4, from 95p each.

2 medium onions, around 200g, 13p (65p/1kg, Growers Selection at Asda)

2 large stalks of celery, around 140g, 13p (50p/540g, Growers Selection at Asda)

1 large or 2 smaller carrots, around 115g, 5p (46p/1kg, Asda)

4 fat cloves of garlic, around 10g, 7p (65p/3 bulbs, Asda)

2 tbsp light cooking oil, 5p (£5/3l vegetable oil, Asda)

A generous pinch of salt, <1p (30p/750g table salt, Asda)

1 x 400g can of red kidney beans, 33p (33p/400g, Just Essentials at Asda)

1 x 400g can of black beans, 60p (60p/400g, Asda)

1 x 392g (or thereabouts) can of stewed steak in gravy, £1.82 (£1.82/392g, SmartPrice at Asda)

1 x 400g can of chopped or plum tomatoes, 28p |(28p/400g, SmartPrice at Asda)

2 chicken or beef or vegetable stock cubes, 10p (60p/12, Asda)

2 tsp mixed dried herbs, 6p (35p/18g, Just Essentials at Asda)

2 tsp cumin, 3p (70p/‘100g, Rajah at Asda)

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes or powder, or hot paprika, or a pinch of cayenne pepper, <1p (£1/100g crushed chillies, TRS at Asda)

2 tsp light coloured vinegar or lemon/lime juice, 10p (bottled is fine) (50p/250ml lemon juice, Asda)

Plenty of black pepper, <1p (£1/100g, TRS)

First peel your onion, and very very finely slice it. Very finely slice your celery, and mince or coarsely grate your carrot. You want the veg to be as small as possible, because it won’t be cooking for very long, so you want to maximise the opportunity to get as much flavour from it as possible and get it as tender as you can in the time you have. If you have a small bullet blender or food processor, now would be an excellent time too give it a whirl, but if you don’t, don’t worry, a sharp knife and/or grater and some patience will still get the job done.

Pop the veg in a large nonstick pan, preferably one with a lid, but if you don’t have one we can improvise – I’ll get to that! Don’t put it on the heat just yet, you’re just prepping at the moment and conserving that precious energy.

Grate the garlic over the top, or chop it very finely. Add the oil and salt, and stir well to coat the veg. (Still no heat yet, step away from the ignition! Think of this like a flash-marinade if the thought of cooking from cold makes you feel a little weird, trust me any reservations you have about not doing things like the posh telly chefs do should be alleviated by the reminder that their energy bills for those recipes are paid for by television companies. Yours – and mine – aren’t!)

Open your can of kidney beans and give them a thorough rinse. Open your can of black beans and don’t – you want the ‘juice’ from this can to deepen the flavour of the stew and thicken it slightly. Kidney beans contain toxins that an cause a dodgy belly, so these should always be rinsed well, but other beans are fine. So get these the right way round please, I’ve been there and it’s a thoroughly unpleasant mistake to make…) Pop the kettle on to boil for the stock.

Open your can of stewed steak – if you’re using it – and pop that next to the black beans. Do the same with the tomatoes. If you’ve opted for plum tomatoes, the connoisseur choice in my opinion as they tend to have more tomato-to-juice ratio than the pre chopped kind and be a richer, deeper colour and flavour – stick a small sharp knife in the tin and jiggle it about to chop them up, or use a pair of kitchen or other large sturdy scissors. While you’re being organised, grab your stock cube, herbs, cumin, chilli, vinegar and pepper too so you have them to hand. It seems fastidious, but you want the 15 minutes that your pan is bubbling to be time well spent, not time spent emptying cupboards rootling around for a dusty old spice jar. 

Now all your – what is called in the restaurant industry – ‘mise en place’ is in place, it’s time for the hot stuff. Place the pan on the largest hob ring on the highest heat, and cook the veg for 2 minutes, giving it a stir to disturb it so it doesn’t catch and burn, and cooks evenly.

Add both cans of beans, the tomatoes, the stewed steak, and crumble in the stock cube. Give it all a good stir, then add the dried herbs, cumin, chilli and plenty of black pepper. Pour over the boiling water. Stir it all again, then cover the pan to trap as much of that precious heat in as possible. If you don’t have a lid, you can use a large sturdy dinner plate, a larger pan balances on top or upturned like a dutch oven, or kitchen foil, or a baking tray or baking sheet balanced on top of the pan as a substitute . Cook on the high heat for 12 minutes, giving it a very quick but vigorous stir every now and then, being sure to scrape up the bottom of the pan as it will get super hot, and replacing the lid fast.

After the 12 minutes, give it another good stir, then pop the lid back on. Turn the heat off completely, but leave the pan on the hob ring (the space it has just been cooking in will be warm, so it makes sense to leave it in situ.) Leaving the pan covered, leave it to stand for 20ish miniues to continue to cook in the residual heat. This develops the flavours further, and also thickens the stew, and its basically free extra cooking time with no effort on your part. 

After the 20 no-cook minutes, either remove a quarter of it and blend it to smooth if you have a blender, and return it to the pan, or leave it as is if you’d prefer. Give it your last one-minute blast of heat to get it hot hot again, and serve.

All text copyright Jack Monroe, not to be reproduced without the explicit written permission of the author.


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  1. Thank you, this sounds wonderful! I have an assortment of tins of beans gathering dust in the pantry and this is perfect to use up and serve with some crusty bread.

  2. I love your recipes Jack, and have I think three of your books. I’m just coming out of a bad gastric adventure and they inspire me to pick up a spoon again, thank you.

  3. In the late 60’s & 70’s, especially during the electricity black outs, a quick cheap meal was a big tin of baked beans, a big tin of stewed steak in gravy or minced beef in gravy simply cooked together in one pan. Served with Smash made with water/milk/butter combo boiled on the hob.
    Far less tasty & sophisticated than your version but served 2 adults & 2 kids with a hot meal. Better than toast made in front of the gas or coal fire.
    I have made this recently when we’ve been away in a caravan

  4. One of the things that has always annoyed me about recipes is that they always assumed you had unlimited money to spend on energy bills. If I didn’t love you already I would now for this series Jack.

  5. I have a question: I love black beans, but my supermarket only sells dried. These seem cheaper, but require electricity to cook. Are canned beans cheaper than cooking from dried? (I have a pressure cooker)

  6. Hi Jack – thank you for continuing to share your recipes – I made this last night with some tweaks – we have managed to grow tomatoes this year, so I used fresh tomatoes, and I’m vegan, so no tin o beef! Also, with very rich tomatoey recipes, I add a square or two from a bar of 100% chocolate that I picked up on the reduced shelf of our local supermarket – it’s completely inedible by itself, but adds a real richness to dishes like this in small quantities. That bar will last a good while yet!

  7. This looks delicious- going to try it! Also interesting tinned bean info. Didn’t realise there is no need to rinse other than kidney. 🙂

  8. Very good recipe – just a few points. The instructions say ‘pour over boiling water’, but the list doesn’t say how much. The instructions also don’t say when the vinegar goes in – I guess with the herbs and spices? I couldn’t find ‘stewed steak’ in ASDA so bought ‘beef stew’. It has only 30% meat, 29% veg (what’s the rest!). I used 200ml of water (mainly to rinse out the tins) but stew was too wet. Fortunately I don’t have to count the cost of the power too much so I simmered it with the lid off to reduce.

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