Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kenya: spiced red beans

Kenyan cuisine is influenced by its neighbors as well as Indian traders who arrived in the area hundreds of years ago. Consequently, curries and grilled meat are both important. I think everyone's aware, by this point, of how much I love grilled meat. But I had planned to cook this meal on a Friday during Lent, so it had to be vegetarian. I was weirded out enough by the recipe for the beans that I put it off until Saturday lunch, but decided to stick with the vegetarian theme. (Speaking of vegetarian food, if you have any great veggie or vegan international recipes from countries that haven't shown up on this blog yet, please email them to 45sqftkitchen at gmail dot com. I'd love to check them out.) I also decided to make the convenience version of the beans: a can of red kidney beans was ready to go immediately, as was a can of fire-roasted diced tomato. I used the other half of the can of coconut milk to make some coconut rice with which to eat the leftovers.

This is definitely not the best meal I've ever made. Coconut milk in savory dishes made for a pleasant surprise in Cameroon, but I don't love the mix of sweet and savory in this case. That being said, it's a quick vegetarian dish made primarily with pantry staples (the bell pepper really isn't necessary), and it's tasty enough if you enjoy the flavor combination. The chapati is pretty good, but I think I had the heat on a little too high, leading to a richly toasted flatbread.

Note: I gave Kenny the leftovers and he loved them. So try it for yourself!


two cups all-purpose flour (or whole-wheat flour, or a mixture of the two), sifted
one teaspoon salt
warm water
cooking oil

All ingredients should be allowed to come to room temperature if they have been in the refrigerator. Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Slowly mix in enough water to make a thick dough. Mix in one spoonful oil. Knead dough on a cool surface for a few minutes, adding a few spoonfuls of dry flour. Return dough to the bowl, cover with a clean cloth, and let it rest for thirty minutes.
Lightly grease (with cooking oil) and pre-heat a skillet or griddle.
Divide the dough into orange-sized balls. Flatten them into six-inch circles. Fry them in the skillet or griddle, turning once, until each side is golden brown and spotted.
Cover the finished chapatis and place them in a warm oven until they are all done.
Serve with butter, and any curry, soup, or stew.


two cups (about one pound) dry red beans or kidney beans, soaked in water overnight
one or two cups of coconut milk or whole milk (see the note about coconut milk on the Wali wa Nazi recipe page)
sugar to taste (two to four tablespoons)
a few cardamom seeds, or a quarter teaspoon ground cardamom (or a few small pieces of stick cinnamon, or a quarter teaspoon ground cinnamon)
one teaspoon salt
two onions, chopped (optional)
two tomatoes, chopped (optional)
one sweet green pepper, chopped (optional)
one or two cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped (optional)
one teaspoon mild curry powder (optional)
one small chile pepper, cleaned and chopped (optional even for savory beans)

Rinse and drain soaked beans. Place beans in a large cooking pot and add fresh water to cover. Bring to a fast boil and cook for ten minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until beans are nearly tender. Add all remaining ingredients. Cover and cook until all is tender, stirring occasionally.
Serve with Chapati.

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