250 g (8 oz) dried black beans, soaked overnight in cold water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon chilli powder or smoked paprika
400 g (13 oz) can chopped tomatoes
300 ml (½ pint) vegetable stock
1 tablespoon brown sugar
150 g (5 oz) soured cream or natural yogurt (optional)
salt and pepper
boiled rice or crusty bread, to serve


1.Preheat the slow cooker if necessary. Drain and rinse the soaked beans, then drain again.
2. Place them in a saucepan, add fresh water to cover and bring to the boil. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes, then drain into a sieve.
3.Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and fry, stirring, for 5 minutes or until softened.
4.Add the carrots, celery and garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes. Stir the crushed fennel, cumin and coriander seeds into the vegetables with the chilli powder or paprika and cook for 1 minute.
5.Add the tomatoes, stock, sugar and a little pepper. Bring to the boil, then pour into the slow cooker pot.
6.Mix in the beans, pressing them under the liquid, then cover with the lid and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Season the cooked beans to taste with salt.
7.Top with spoonfuls of soured cream or yogurt, if liked, and Avocado Salsa (see below), and serve accompanied by boiled rice or crusty bread.
8.FOR AVOCADO SALSA TO ACCOMPANY THE STEW, halve, stone and peel 1 avocado. Dice the flesh and toss with the grated rind and juice of 1 lime.
9.Mix with 2 finely chopped red onion, 2 diced tomatoes and 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves.
10. Make the salsa about 10 minutes before serving the stew.

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