Buen apetito!


So you like cooking and you fancy learning Spanish?  Jane Pikett does – here’s how she combined the two

Six of us, ranging in age from nine to, ahem, over 40, are standing around my kitchen table hanging on every word from our leader, Marian Rodriguez. We are chanting in unison, “me gusta el pepino”, and “no me gusta el pepino”, plus many and varied combinations of the above.

Pepino, don’t you know, is Spanish for cucumber. I like (me gusta) cucumber (pepino) and tell everyone so enthusiastically in my best O-Level Spanish. I am told my accent is “muy bien” by Marian and I blush with pride.

The vegans in the room declare that they “no me gusta la carne” but that “me gustan mucho los frijoles” (that’s beans folks, and they do eat a lot of beans…), which is what we’re cooking up today, in the shape of Colombia’s favourite dish, Frijoles Columbianos.

This is the best fun I’ve had in ages. The two nine-year-olds are beyond excited to learn the names of every ingredient in the dish and the side of guacamole we’re making, and they make an admirable job of chopping onions (cebolla) and crushing garlic (ajo) as a result.

The two 20-year-old vegans are mostly relieved to be cooking something they can eat with someone from South America, where they plan to travel after graduation, while the two 40-somethings are having the best time showing off their O-Level Spanish skills, such as they are. Marian, our teacher, is a Colombian artist specialising in oil painting living in Corbridge who, when she is not painting, teaches Spanish. A little while ago, she was struck with the idea of combining some of her Spanish lessons with teaching her pupils how to cook her favourite dishes, and her language/cookery lessons were born.

Hence, we drill Spanish verbs and vocabulary as we peel and chop, thoroughly enjoying the cooking and the language lesson as we go. And the result of our efforts? Staggeringly good (the food more than the language, but you can’t have everything). The trick with this dish is to use dry kidney beans and boil them for a long time, retaining the cooking liquor to add depth to the dish. Grilling your red romano pepper adds similar flavour while the butternut squash and sweet potato add more variety of flavour and texture. The guacamole on the side adds a pop of colour, zest and another change of pace in texture.

Don’t worry too much about quantities – cook by taste and up the seasoning and spices as you need. And if you want to make it really fun, get out your Spanish dictionary and learn the names of the ingredients as you go. Altogether now… Me gusta el pepino…
Me gustan los frijoles…

Marian Rodriguez, tel 07928 494 182 email r.marian70@yahoo.com


Frijoles Colombianos

Sign up to our news
You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us.