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La sabana with refried beans and mule-drivers’ sauce

Australian Gourmet Traveller Mexican recipe for la sabana with refried beans and mule-drivers’ sauce

By Rodney Dunn
  • 15 mins preparation
  • 1 hr 40 mins cooking plus standing
  • Serves 6
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La sabana with refried beans and mule-drivers’ sauce
Sabana means sheet in Spanish, referring to the paper-thin piece of steak. This recipe has been adapted from Diana Kennedy’s The Art of Mexican Cooking.


  • 6 beef fillet steaks (120gm each)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
Refried beans
  • 250 gm dried red kidney beans
  • ½ cup lard
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
Mule-drivers’ sauce
  • 1 long red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 long green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lime juice


  • 1
    For refried beans, combine beans, 1 tbsp lard and half the onion in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 1½ hours or until beans are tender, then season to taste with sea salt. Remove from heat and stand for 30 minutes to cool slightly. Heat remaining lard in a heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat, add remaining onion and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Drain beans and add to pan, then, using a fork, mash to a coarse paste. Cook beans, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until mixture becomes a thick paste and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • 2
    For mule-drivers’ sauce, combine ingredients in a bowl, season to taste with sea salt and set aside.
  • 3
    Place a piece of steak between 2 pieces of Go-between (see note) or into a clean plastic bag and, using a meat mallet, pound to 2mm thick. Remove Go-between and repeat with remaining steaks.
  • 4
    Heat oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over high heat. Sear steaks for 1-2 minutes each side and season to taste. Serve immediately with refried beans, drizzled with mule-drivers’ sauce.


Go-between is sturdy, heat-resistant plastic available from supermarkets.

  • Author: Rodney Dunn