Beans and fish seem to be a match made in heaven. Twice now we have been away from Athens on islands eating fresh fish accompanied by fantastic bean salads. The first was on the island of Kythera (see my post Capsali Salad) and the second more recently, late last month, on the small Cycladic island of Koufonisi where the main occupation (aside from seasonal tourism) revolves around the sea.
One night we ate out at a taverna that specialises in fish (ψαροταβέρνα) – which you can see in the image of the sign post below. It has lost its tail. This does not seem surprising as the coastal winds can get quite fierce. I’m more surprised that the entire fish hadn’t swum away in the occasional gales.
I have no idea if there really is a Captain Nicholas (Καπετάν Νικόλας as he appears on the sign). But, it is quite likely there is (or was) such a person as many inhabitants of this small island captain boats of one size or another.
Black-eyed beans (or peas) are called μαυρομάτικα in Greek. They are relatives of the cowpea, a native of Central Africa and are ideal for growing in hot dry climates. Locally, they are favoured for salads and soups because of their mild taste and tender texture.
Kapetan Nikolas Black-Eyed Bean Salad
This salad is simple, delicious and can be made in advance. Naturally, it goes extremely well with fish.
- 300g dried black-eyed beans
- 1 small sweet red pepper
- 1 mildly hot green chilli
- 1 small bunch of parsley
- 3 spring onions
- 45ml balsamic vinegar
- 100ml olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon curry powder, optional
- salt & pepper
Although some say black-eyed beans do not require pre-soaking, I soaked the beans overnight in cold water. I leave this stage up to you – to soak or not to soak. Put the beans into a large pot with clean cold water. Turn on the heat and cook until soft (about 1 hour to 1 and a half hours depending if pre-soaked and also on the age of the beans). Drain, rinse and cool in a bowl.
De-seed and slice the red pepper and chilli into long thin strips. Dice the strips into small pieces. Add these to the beans. Clean and finely chop the parsley. Finely chop the spring onions using the white and light green parts and add to the bowl. Mix.
In a separate bowl, pour in the balsamic, oil and honey. Add the curry powder if you are using. My Greek advisor in the kitchen (whom I’ve referred to as S in previous posts) recommends the use of curry powder, but I think the flavours of the beans and peppers are fine without it. Whisk and add the dressing to the bean mixture. Season with salt (it will need it) and pepper. Mix and let it sit for a while – at least an hour before serving or ideally overnight in the refrigerator.