Matching vegetarian dishes with red wine ought not to be that difficult, but there does seem to be a sense that white (or rosé) wines are a better default mode. Is this because there's an underlying assumption that veggie dishes are light and inconsequential – bland even? Admittedly there isn't the tooth and claw chew of protein and fat that you get from meat, which shows many red wines in a flattering light. But with the plethora of ingredients easily available to jazz up the simplest of dishes, surely reds need not be off the list for veggie food? As with any wine match it is really about the dominant flavours and textures of a dish, and their depth and richness, enhanced or created by the spices or other umami (savoury) elements the cook has introduced. This should guide where your hand comes to rest when picking a suitable bottle.
So, asked to come up with a recipe for a bold, powerful Spanish red, I hit upon a black bean stew. The deep, earthy flavours of the dish, complemented by a tangy salsa, pair well with the big, ripe black-fruit flavours of this deliciously rich tempranillo, and no bull (or other beast) need otherwise feature for your flavour or protein hit. It will serve 4 handsomely.
For the stew:
- 1 x 400g tin black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 3 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
- 1 stick of celery, diced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
- 1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
- ½ pint/300ml vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- Pinch of chilli flakes or cayenne (or more if you like heat)
- 1 lime, ½ of it cut into wedges, the other half retained for the salsa (or 2 limes if serving more than two people)
- Salt and black pepper
- Handful of fresh, chopped coriander for scattering
- Sour cream for dolloping (optional)
For the salsa:
- 2 large tomatoes, deseeded and diced (you can skin them if you like but it looks prettier if the skin is on and glistening in the dressing and juices)
- ½ red onion, peeled and finely diced
- Lime juice from half of the lime (see above)
- Handful chopped coriander
- ½ clove of garlic, crushed (if you're not such a fan of garlic just rub the cut clove around the inside of the bowl you are going to mix the salsa in)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely diced (optional)
- A good pinch of salt and black pepper
- Heat the oil in a big saucepan or casserole dish over a medium heat and then sauté the celery and onion until just softened and translucent. If you like you can let the onion brown a little, but not burn, for a bit of extra flavour. Add the red and green pepper and cook for five minutes over the same heat to soften them. Add the garlic and cook for two or three minutes more, but don't let the garlic burn.
- Add the ground coriander and cinnamon, smoked paprika, the chilli or cayenne and the tomato purée and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tinned tomatoes, the stock and the oregano and bubble for 20 minutes or so to let the flavours amalgamate and the stew to thicken a little. Then add the black beans and cook for five more minutes, so that the beans are heated through but not allowed to go mushy.
- While the stew is cooking and before the black beans are added you have time to knock together the salsa. Once you've done the prep (dicing, crushing, chopping etc.) it couldn't be simpler. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Voila! Alternatively, make it well ahead of the stew to allow all the flavours to combine.
- Serve the stew in bowls with a dollop of sour cream (if liked), a scattering of coriander, a lime wedge and the salsa on the side. To make even more of a meal of it serve with the rice of your choice cooked simply as a foil to the deep, dark and earthy flavours of the stew.