A couple of weeks ago me and my other half, minus the kids, had the privilege of leaving the inclement weather of a cold Melbourne for the much more favourable climes of Hamilton Island. The island is a magnificent paradise nestled in the Whitsunday Islands off the east coast of Queensland in northern Australia. On arriving, it was clear to see that a capsule load of Melburnians had landed as clothing layers were being ripped off in reaction to the temperate difference between embarkation and disembarkation.
The few days away were terrific but of all the fantastic stuff we did, the day trip out to the iconic Great Barrier Reef was up there with the best.
On the day of the trip we boarded the catamaran at 8.30am, having limited the amount of frivolities the previous night in preparation for an unpredictable sea. We were positioned on the upper deck at the front ready to visit one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. A 45-minute calm sail through the Whitsunday Islands showed off the beauty of the area; but there were also remnants of destruction, a result of hurricane Debbie that attempted to, and in part did, decimate the islands back in March of this year. The restoration work has been impressive but the Islands, such as the 6-star resort of Hayman, are still in repair. As we glided around the corner of Hook Island the open Pacific Ocean came in to view with nothing more than white tips and horizon. The boat suddenly started swaying gently from left to right as we headed out. The sky was overcast so the sea’s colouring was a greyish blue. The rocking of the boat was quite hypnotic and induced a calm sleepiness. About an hour later I caught sight of what looked like a vessel on the horizon. This turned out to be the pontoon we were heading to and as we eventually approached the destination, the ocean became eerily calm as we sailed in to the protected confines of one of the famous reefs; Hardy Reef. The sky had also cleared to a deep blue and the water now reflected that. The boat docked at the pontoon and everyone disembarked, most of us eager to change in to stinger suits, adorn flippers, snorkel and masks and get on with the real reason to be there; to see the barrier reef up close.
The reef was amazing; it is true that some of the coral has died off, but still it was magnificent to snorkel amongst the amazing coloured fish, sea cucumbers, giant clams, and little unknowns that would pop their heads out and then swiftly disappear from some miniature cavern from within the coral.
After the snorkelling lunch was served on the catamaran and it is here that we first encountered the Brazilian style black bean and sweetcorn salad; part of a fantastic buffet that included mountains of meaty and delectable Queensland prawns. But it was this salad that really stood out.
On the following day it was on the stunning Whitehaven Beach that we had the second helping of the black bean and sweetcorn salad, and it was just as good. Imagine the scene; sailing on a tropical coloured sea when an expanse of stunning white beach comes in to view; the salty smell of the ocean permeates the air; and the sun is gently beating its drum in an intensely blue sky intermittently marbled with wisps of white. As we stepped off the boat on to a smaller passenger vessel to take us to the beach a line of pristine marquees had been previously erected and as we got closer the smells of sizzling steak and fried fish masked the ocean; this was the place for lunch. It sounds idyllic but it was much more than that. After feasting on the wonderful lunch we spent the afternoon frolicking in the warm sea swimming amidst the odd group of colourful fish that would pass by. What a fantastic few days it was.
Alas, back in wind-swept Melbourne I wanted to emulate the salad to rekindle memories of the trip and of course to titillate the taste buds. Brazilian cuisine is varied but there are certain ingredients that characterise it; black beans, cassava, coriander, lime, a penchant for dried salted shrimp and chilli. The flavours in the salad on our trip were quite subtle; I wanted to pep it up a little so I decided to use lime, coriander, chilli and of course the black beans, which have their own distinct flavour. I toyed with the idea of using the dried shrimp, but omitted them in the end as they would have overpowered the salad. I was really impressed with the final dish and I encourage you to give it ago.
Note, if you want to try a dish with dried shrimp then click here for acarajé – deep fried black-eyed pea and shrimp balls that go terrifically well with chilli sauce and a cold beer.
Another Note, the black beans do not require overnight soaking. I have experimented with various methods to cook the beans and the one I have written down here works very well.
Summery Brazilian Black Bean and Corn SaladPrint
- ■ 300g dried black beans |
- ■ 2 corn cobs | Outer leaves and ‘string’ removed.
- ■ 1 bird’s-eye chilli | Remove seeds and pith if you don’t want too much heat.
- ■ 1 bunch coriander | Picked leaves finely chopped.
- ■ 1 medium French shallot | Finely chopped.
- ■ half red pepper (capsicum) | Deseeded, pith removed and finely diced.
- ■ 2 limes - juice of |
- ■ 1 pinch smoked paprika |
- ■ sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper for seasoning |
- A drizzle of olive oil to loosen the salad a little.
Rinse the black beans in cold water to clean, and then drain. Place the black beans in a large pan with a couple of pinches of sea salt. Cover with cold water so that the water is at least triple the depth of the beans. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for one hour, intermittently checking that the water doesn’t dry up; top up with hot water if necessary. After 1 hour turn off the heat and leave to rest for a further hour, with the lid on. Now drain the beans in a colander and set aside to cool to room temperature. Now refrigerate for about half an hour to cool completely.
Strip the corn from the two cobs by holding the corn vertically and cutting off the corn kernels from top to bottom. Place a pan of water on high heat and add a pinch of sea salt. When boiling add the corn kernels and bring back to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for ten minutes. Strain the kernels in a sieve and then run under cold water to cool them down and stop the cooking process. Now add them to the black beans.
To the cooled corn and black beans add the chilli, coriander, shallot, red pepper, half of the lime juice, smoked paprika, seasoning and olive oil. Mix well but gently enough that the black beans don’t crush. Check the seasoning and add a little more if required. Also add a little more oil if you need to moisten the salad (note, the salad should not taste or feel oily). Also add more of the remaining lime juice until you’re happy with the flavour.
Leave the salad in the fridge for half an hour to let the ingredients get to know each other intimately. Serve as a side dish – brilliant with barbecues and cold beers.