Thursday, January 12, 2023

Instant Pot Black Bean Stew

A theme of the last week of 2022 and the first week of 2023 was that we were putting out fires, figuratively- burst pipes, flat tires on cars, and the like. The most upsetting of these incidents was that Duncan got bitten on the face by another dog. 

We needed care for Duncan while we were away in New Orleans for a few days, and found a great pet sitter who could take our pup into her own home. For several days, Dunkie has a blast with the loving pet sitter, her dog and other guest dogs she was hosting over the holidays. Then, literally two hours before we were to pick him up, the sitter's dog inexplicably attacked Duncan and left him with gaping wounds on the forehead and cheek, digging into a tooth pocket. Dunkie spent hours at the vet being sedated to get his wounds cleaned, and came home groggy, with a regimen of pain meds and antibiotics. We were distraught that he had to go through all this, just two months after his cancer surgery. The silver lining is that the bites could have been much worse than they were- so close to his eyes- and his wounds healed quickly, so we are grateful for that. Also, the dog sitter took full responsibility and covered the vet bills, which I am sure were considerable (they always are). 

Life is getting back to its routine rhythm. These days, I'm back in the office 3 days a week and working from home the other 2 days. Even though my commute is barely 10 minutes, it does mean that I have to plan ahead and keep dinner ready for the days I'm at the office. (We eat super early!!) Recipes that are even slightly more involved, like enchiladas, are now out in favor of recipes that virtually cook themselves, such as this black bean stew which I make at least once a week. 

Black Bean Stew

1. Soak 2 cups black beans in lightly salted water for 6-8 hours

2. In an Instant Pot insert, add

  • Soaked black beans
  • Frozen fire roasted bell peppers and onions (or chopped fresh veg)
  • Minced garlic
  • 2 chopped canned chipotle chilies
  • Canned or fresh crushed tomato or tomato paste
  • Dried organo
  • Ground cumin
  • Smoked paprika
  • Salt
  • Enough water to cover the beans plus more as needed

3. Pressure cook on HIGH for 14 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. 

The chipotle chilies and smoked paprika give a wonderful depth of favor. I serve this stew in many different ways- as a soup with a quick quesadilla, or in a bowl with rice (brown rice is wonderful here), chopped onions and cilantro, a bit of sour cream, avocado, or cheese, lettuce or cabbage slaw- just whatever I have on hand. Pinto beans can also be used in place of black beans. 

* * *

This week I am...

Eating- We went over to our friends' place for a casual supper, and they made the most delicious thin crust pizzas. Our friend rolled out and stretched dough onto individual pans (he told me he bought them from a local Holiday Inn when they had a closing down sale!) and set out toppings so we could each make our own pizza. My homemade pizzas are the thick focaccia-style ones, and while those are great, these thin crust pizzas were a treat. Our friend mentioned that the pizza dough recipe came from the cookbook Ratio, and is the 20 ounce flour: 12 ounce water ratio. Someone has posted the recipe here. It does require a scale which I don't own. 

Watching- The 2022 series of the British Baking Show; one or two episodes of the kid version of the British Baking Show (it bothers me that they don't set simpler challenges for kids); random episodes of Murder, She Wrote

Reading- I'm in a reading slump where I pick up a book (and another and another) but find that I'm not in the mood for it. I think a trip to the library this weekend will perk me up. I did read an adorable book- Yummy: A History of Desserts, a middle grade graphic novel. With enticing stories and a few easy recipes, this book is informative and fascinating. My favorite part of this book is the world maps depicting how, say, doughnuts have versions across cultures. 

Trying- Two new classes at the gym. I wore boxing gloves for the first time for a cardio boxing class! The class is not a good fit for me, but it was fun to swing those boxing gloves around :)

How is the first half of January going for you?


  1. Happy New Year, Nupur!

    Read a couple of good books.

    The Red Arrow (William Brewer)
    Diary of a Film (Niven Govinden)

    Enjoyed them both a lot. It's been cold and wet in these parts. As expected for early January, I guess! We were in India last month, and the husband was reminded of a childhood favorite: Grilled Veggie Cheese Toast Sandwiches! When we got back, he wasted no time in ordering a panini grill and press online, and grilled veggie toast has been on the menu multiple times in the last few weeks. Simple and inexpensive pleasures win, every time, haha.


    1. Happy new year, Lakshmi! Thanks for the books recos :) Yes, January can be a dreary time of year.

      Cheese toast sandwiches are a perennial favorite. I remember the sandwich maker used to make those on the gas stove-top. It is a metal contraption with diagonals and the way it presses bread results in the crunchiest corners. On my electric stove I just make grilled cheese sandwiches on a cast iron griddle (using another cast iron skillet to press down the sandwich) and it works quite well. I agree that these are the simplest, most inexpensive, and yet the most exquisite pleasures in life!

  2. Poor Duncan! I hope that he heals quickly and that 2023 gets better for everyone from here. (2023 has been rough for everyone I know...we're holding out hope for a reset with the Chinese New Year.)

    Also - no kitchen scale? I couldn't live without mine :)

    1. Bek- do you remember you knitted me a pink swirl hat (with beads) SO many years ago? I am still using it- in fact, used it yesterday morning on a run in freezing weather. Are you still knitting a lot?

      I used to have a kitchen scale in STL but didn't bring it with me to GA. I've been managing fine with my cups and spoons :D but it may be time to get a scale again.

      Good luck with the rest of 2023! We're at Jan 15 already!

    2. I'm so glad to hear that you're still using the hat! It's one of my favorite patterns. I don't have as much knitting time as I used to, unfortunately, but I still pick up the needles from time to time :)

      I do a lot of baking so I love my kitchen scale. Funny enough though, I actually bought it because I needed to split a ball of yarn exactly in half and weight was the best way to do it.

    3. I should also get back to knitting. It feels so therapeutic, especially during winter. Love that your scale does double duty for baking and yarn :)

  3. Omg . So sorry to hear about Duncan .. I can’t imagine what it must be like for him and all of you . I hope he heals soon - in his heart too . These types of incidents leave their mark in More ways than one . My dog , the sweetest girl you could meet , is now aggressive after being attacked by another dog on one of our walks . I guess she doesn’t know a better way to deal with it . First half of Jan has been slow and painful - some of it from my lack of interest in things in general . I need a push of some sort to get me fired up again . Hope it is a gentle push and not a shove :) . Your new stew recipe sounds nice . I’ll have to try it soon . I splurged on la cruset pots during their winter sale so I am enjoying cooking in them now . Quality cookware does make a difference and worth it if you cook reasonably often , in my opinion . So my vote is for you to get yourself that scale :) .

    1. Jo- I know what you mean about the psychological impact of these incidents. Duncan seems to have forgotten about it and is his old self, and we're finally done with the meds and stuff (he hates taking pills).

      January can be a rough month, not least because it is cold and dreary and there are no brightly lit holidays for distraction. Seasonal blues are a thing. I hope things look up for you. Sending hugs.

      Congrats on the le creuset cookware! What color did you get? They will look great on the stove even when you're not cooking with them. (My stove ornament is a flame red le creuset demi kettle).

      Yes, indeed I think I will get myself that scale :)

    2. Err I went overboard and bought a few - red , yellow , teal and olive colored but I have decided to give 2 of them away to each of my sisters :) . They are really worth the price in my opinion . Life is too short to not indulge oneself occasionally :) . How do you like your la cruset kettle ?

    3. Oh my, all the colors sound fantastic! I have a small yellow le creuset tomato shaped casserole that I love (was a wedding gift from a dear friend). Yes they are lifetime purchases and well worth it. I do like my kettle but it takes a while to come to boil...I find myself heating up water for tea in the microwave. Blasphemy!

  4. Poor Duncan, that incident sounds horrific. I hope everyone is over that trauma soon.

    January feels like a blur already. I made my Moroccan lentil soup over a week ago and I can’t find any takers in my house. I had it a couple of times and I’m over it too. I made it after almost a year , still it’s not novel for anyone to try it.
    For myself I’ve bought all ingredients but haven’t made yet - zucchini soup/broth. My low calorie warm drink to give me a boost daily. It’s literally just garlic mirepoix and zucchini in an Insta pot. Salt pepper and once booked blitz with a hand mixer. Great broth for cold days.
    I don’t feel like I have a handle on 2023 yet - don’t have our routines all set , work is just hobbling back into a rhythm. Cooking has been hit or miss and then we have a 4 day weekend for MLK which has made it hard to keep kids and adults constructively entertained.
    I feel tired. So perhaps a slower take is the answer. More rest on the weekends and more planning to make weekdays go smoothly.
    I love home made pizzas - you can buy really nice pizza trays on Amazon for cheap. I bought a bunch of 12” ones which are perfect for individual pizzas. I do want to get 16” ones next. I’ve also been eyeing ooni pizza ovens but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. Wood fired pizza at home would be a dream!
    My eating has been too electric but trying hard to focus on protein. So have made egg burji twice this week and going to try egg curry later this week.
    Much like my January , my comment seems all over the place so I best stop here.
    Have a great long weekend !

    1. Thanks Archana, now it is 2 weeks after Duncan's incident and he seems to be well over it, it has healed, life is back to normal, he even went to a dog park again. Thankful for that.

      I'll take some of your Moroccan lentil soup :) It is totally soup weather here. The zucchini soup sounds amazing as a sipper!

      My January sounds very similar to yours- with an attempt to get back into the routine while dealing with the usual disruptions- long weekend with no plans, kids unwilling to do much outside in the cold weather, spouse traveling for work...just taking it one day at a time :) I think a slower take is the perfect answer to feeling frazzled and not-right.

  5. Hi Nupur. It's been a while since I've left a comment on your blog. I've been a regular since 2005, and find your posts entertaining and helpful. I have to cook an Indian dish for immigration day at my 2nd grader's school - the quantity needs to be enough for 20 kids, preferably gluten-free, and easy to assemble on a weekday. I'd thought of veg pulao, but scrounging around for other ideas. Do you have any? Thanks!

    1. What a fun project! My top idea is vegetable patties/cutlets- with potatoes, carrots, peas. They could be shaped like hearts for extra cuteness.

      Or idlis, with shreds of carrots and peas for extra color. Mango lassi served in dixie cups. Chickpea and corn bhel.

      With gluten: aloo parathas cut in triangles. Chutney sandwiches with cucumber. Roti wraps- rolled and cut in the style of tortilla pinwheels. Pineapple sheera in muffin cups.

  6. What a scary episode for Duncan! Glad to hear he’s on the mend!
    First half is going well. Been going for walks daily. For your reading slump, try Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller. One of my favorite reads from last year.


    1. Thanks, Anu! Walks are wonderful mood-boosters. Duncan makes sure we get our daily walks. Thank you for the book reco- I just put it on hold at the library :)

  7. So so scary for Duncan! I would be devastated if this happened to my puppy. Positive thoughts for a quick healing.
    The black bean chili sounds so good. I am surprised you have to cook ony for 14 mins. I usually do beans for 30 mins in my IP.

    1. Thanks, Sangeetha, for your good wishes. I would have been devastated if the damage was worse- like if he lost an eye or something- but we are grateful that he has healed completely.

      I too am surprised at why food cooks so quickly in my IP. If I cook beans for 30 mins they will literally disintegrate into liquid. Everything cooks faster in my IP than times indicated on recipes (from many different sources), and I have no idea why.

  8. What a way to begin the new year for poor Duncan! Hope he's getting better by leaps and bounds!
    I love reading your blog and have been following it since the days of the famous Bombay pav bhaaji post!

    1. Thanks, Pal! He's getting so much better and is totally recovered. He's a gentle and forgiving soul and luckily I don't think he has retained any trauma from this incident.

      Thanks for reading my blog all these years!!


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