Thursday, November 20, 2008


Well, kids, November is zooming along & taking us right into the heart of soup & stew season. In honor of that, I’d love to post the recipe Eberle just came up with that practically cured yours truly overnight of a cold—a chicken curry made with red chili paste & roots crops & some other locally available vegetables (sadly, we don’t have a little organic produce market or anything remotely like that, so the next however many months can be a grim time where veggies are concerned). However, that one will have to wait for the next time Eberle whips it up (soon, I hope!) In the meantime, I thought I’d share another recipe from the tragically out-of-print Africa News Cookbook. It’s called Maharagwe, apparently a Swahili word for beans. According to both The Africa News Cookbook & some online sources, this is a traditional Kenyan recipe.

This soup is just the thing on a cold afternoon or evening—hearty with kidney beans & kidney bean broth, savory with coconut milk & turmeric, & spicy with chili peppers or cayenne. On top of that it’s incredibly easy to make—what more c
ould you want?

The ingredients are as follows:
1 cup of dried red kidney beans (I’ve seen variations on Maharagwe using black-eyed peas, but there’s something about the taste, size, & color of kidney beans that make them ideal for this dish)
2 medium sized yellow onions, chopped
1-2 Tbsp of olive oil
2-3 tomatoes, chopped (I vary the amount of tomatoes based on the type of tomatoes I use; for instance, I used those vine-ripened tomatoes for t
his recent batch, & used 5 of them, which seemed about right; I also blanch & peel the tomatoes when making this dish)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp turmeric (It’s come to my attention that some folks react badly to turmeric—having heard this from good friends who are Robert Frost’s Banjo readers; so I asked myself, what could you substitute? Some observations after looking around on the ‘net: Saffron gives the yellow coloring but not the same flavor & is muy expensive; turmeric is related to ginger, so you could perhaps substitute ginger, but ground ginger packs quite a bit
more wallop than turmeric, so there might be some experimentation involved; a blogger who seemed to know more about cooking than me by a whole lot suggested annato seeds, steeped in boiling water for 20 minutes, but I’m thinking annato seeds may be hard to come by in stores around these parts; the best suggestion I saw—somehow this strikes me as though it would work in this recipe: use an equivalent amount of cardamon—cardamon is also in the ginger family)
3 chili peppers or around 1¼ to 1½ tsps of cayenne
2 14-oz. cans of coconut milk—NOT light, if you can possibly help it (The recipe in The Africa News Cookbook specifies using coconut milk prepared
from scratch—I guess I can be a lazy cook—this has always seemed like a lot of trouble to me, even tho we do have a number of tools that would make the process easier than it might be otherwise. However, if you own some power tools, & want to make the coconut milk from scratch, there are recipes for this on the web—e.g. here; this site does neglect to point out that before you can work with the coconut’s flesh you need to get inside the coconut).

After preparing your kidney beans for cooking as usual (i.e., by soaking), cover them with water in a large pot (like a stockpot—see the pic of our beloved black Creuset) & simmer them until they’re getting tender). Then saute the onions in your fav
e saute pan until they’re golden. Once the beans are just about tender add the onions & everything else to the pot! The beans have made their own stock, so that’s all there is to it. Let everything simmer together for at least several minutes so the beans are tender & the tomatoes are cooked. As long as you keep the heat down (to keep the tomatoes from dissolving), you can keep this on the stove for a while & really let all those flavors cozy up to each other.

As with many African dishes, this is traditionally served over fufu or a similar starchy substance. I’m honestly not a fufu fan myself, so I serve it over white rice. The adventurous can find a few fufu recipes here.

Hope you enjoy this simple, savory, warming dish!

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