Belinda Jeffery

Black turtle bean, corn, avocado, and grilled capsicum salad with lime dressing

I have always loved the look of these shiny black beans with their tiny white ‘navels’, but it’s only recently that I’ve started cooking with them. The first time I did so, I learned the hard way that they need more cooking than many other dried beans. After soaking them overnight, and cooking them for 1 ½ hours I figured they would be done, so I tried one, and it was tender, but when I drained them and tasted a few more, they were still quite firm and chewy. I’ve since discovered that it’s quite common for some beans to become tender before others, and that they can need up to 2 ½ hours cooking to be creamy inside. How I wish I had known at the time, as we munched our way through a rather chewy salad! I’m pleased to say, that fortunately I haven’t repeated that first mistake, and that this vibrant salad often turns up at mealtimes – it goes wonderfully well with pretty much anything off the barbecue, and is particularly divine with sticky glazed barbecued ribs.


Serves 4

1 ½ cups (300g) dried black turtle beans (or any other dried beans that you like)

1 large even red capsicum (or two if small)

2 corn cobs, husks and silk removed

A little olive oil, for brushing the corn

1 large avocado (or 2 smaller ones), finely diced

2 chillies, finely chopped

1 large golden shallot, finely chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Sea salt, to taste


Lime dressing:

½ cup (125 ml) olive oil

2 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, or more to taste

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 golden shallot, very finely chopped

1 small clove garlic, finely chopped

1 – 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground cumin seeds

¾ teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste

½ teaspoon caster sugar

Wash the turtle beans really, really well and check them for any little stones. Put them in a large bowl of cold water (you need about 4 times the amount of water as there are beans) and leave them to soak in a cool spot overnight. If the weather’s warm it’s a good idea to put them in the fridge, otherwise they can ferment and start to bubble.


The next day, drain the beans and rinse them again. Put them into a large saucepan and cover them with cold water by at least an index-finger length. Bring the water to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook the beans until they’re tender and creamy but not mushy. Skim away any scum that forms on the surface as the beans cook, and keep an eye on the water level – you may need to top it up every now and again. As I mentioned earlier, the beans can take up to 2 ½ hours to become tender and creamy – start checking them after 1 ½ hours so you know how they’re going; the best way to do this, is to scoop out a small spoonful and try them.


While the beans are cooking, prepare the remaining ingredients.


For the dressing, put all the ingredients into a large bowl, and whisk them together until the sugar and salt dissolve. Taste the dressing and adjust the flavours to suit you, then set the bowl aside.


Slice the capsicum down its natural contour lines into large pieces. Remove the cores, seeds and white ribs then sit the pieces, shiny-side up, on a grill or baking tray. Slide them under a hot grill until the skins blister and blacken, then take them out and cover them with a thick tea-towel. As soon as they’re cool enough to handle, peel away and discard the skins, and slice the flesh into little chunks, then scrape them into a bowl.


Preheat your barbecue to medium heat. Brush the corn cobs with a little olive oil, and barbecue them, turning them regularly, for about 10 minutes until they’re very tender and charred in patches (if you have a covered barbecue, close the lid for this). When the corn is ready, remove it to a plate, and leave it to cool slightly. Remove the kernels by holding the cob upright and running a sharp knife down the length between the base of the kernels and the cob. Add the kernels to the bowl of capsicum.


As soon as the beans are ready, drain them really well, then tip them into the bowl of dressing. Allow them to cool in the dressing, giving them a stir every so often. Add most of the capsicum and corn mixture, and most of the avocado to the beans. Sprinkle in the chilli, golden shallot and most of the chives, and gently but thoroughly mix everything together. Taste the salad, and add a little more salt, if necessary.


To serve, pile the salad into a serving bowl, and scatter the reserved avocado, capsicum, corn and chives over the top.