Tacos with spicy black bean mince

Black bean mince tacos

Black bean mince tacos

Behind the school there’s a hill where the children play. Some will build forts, some will make a bridge over the slight ravine that leads to the hill or a dam for the creek that runs down the hill after a great rain, some will be content just to climb, and see how high they get, and look down on the world below them. In the winter the hill is bare and beautiful, with a ruddy light between the silvery sycamore trunks; in the summer it’s lush and green, and it’s harder to find your children behind the vines and brambles. When Malcolm was younger, he used to disappear over the top of the hill, and it made me so anxious. I like to joke that I can get up the hill, but I can’t get back down. Of course I could if I really needed to, but I’m not as nimble as these young mountain goats, with their fearlessness and their low centers of gravity. So I’d stand at the bottom and fret, and yell at poor Isaac if he ventured up the hill at all. It’s odd to think back to that time, now, because these days I don’t think twice about letting Malcolm go over the top of the hill. I still don’t know what it looks like up there, and for some reason that idea appeals to me. I like to think about Malcolm venturing to places I don’t go, and seeing what I can’t see. I like to think about his world growing and glowing in that way, rich and colorful in my imagination and his memory. When we go for walks, Malcolm’s always climbing and leaping and scampering to places I could but generally won’t go. On top of giant piles of rock or down a slippery river bank. It used to me taking pictures of him and these feats of derring-do. Lately he’s taken my phone with him, so that he can take a picture of the view from his angle, of the world as he sees it. The other day we walked along the abandoned train tracks to the south of town, and came to a train car bathed in ridiculously beautiful golden evening light. I took pictures from the outside, but Malcolm, of course, climbed in.
glowy train

glowy train

And then he asked for my phone and climbed the ladder to the odd-looking train car adjacent.

And he took a picture of what he saw there–the wild and beautiful evidence of kids decorating their own secret world, making their mark, claiming their space.

What Malcolm Saw

What Malcolm Saw

I’ve made black bean mince before, but I’d never used it in tacos. It makes so much sense! It’s almost like refried beans, but with more substance and texture and flavor. I added sage, oregano, cumin and smoked paprika, which made it very tasty. We ate it with basmati rice, warm tortillas, shredded lettuce, and grated sharp cheddar. It would be nice with avocado, salsa, cilantro, hot sauce…anything you like on a taco. It would also be good baked inside of enchiladas or burritos. Very easy, very quick, very cheap. I made mine with eggs, to give it more crumbly texture, but you could leave them out if you’re vegan and it will still taste good.

Here’s KRS One with Out for Fame.

Black bean mince

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 shallot
1 clove garlic
lots of olive oil
1 t smoked paprika
1 t cumin
1 t sage
1 t oregano
1 t red pepper flakes
2 T tomato paste
1/2 t. marmite
1 T tamari
2 slices of bread, processed into coarse bread crumbs
1 can chopped tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
2 egg

Warm a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, herbs, tomato paste, tamari, and marmite. Cook until the shallots and garlic start to brown and then add the beans. Mix well and heat through.

Put the beans in a blender or food processor and process until they’re roughly ground. You don’t want it too pasty.

In a bowl, add the bread and egg, and mix well.

Warm a few tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan, and add the black bean mixture. Now you’re going to cook it sort of like you’re making scrambled eggs. Let it brown on the bottom, and then scrape it up and mix that in, then let some more brown. When the pan dries out, add some of the tomatoes. You might need to add more olive oil as you go along. It might take about ten minutes, but you want something that’s got lots of crispy bits and looks like ground meat (I know, that’s sort of weird, but it really does taste good!)


Warm tortillas, shredded lettuce, grated cheese, basmati rice, salsa, hot sauce, avocado, diced tomatoes…or whatever you like!


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