Regular readers of Gastrotastic will know I have a bit of a thing for legumes. High in protein, low in fat, with so many varieties that one would be pushed to get bored. Some recent discoveries that have become store cupboard essentials have included Urad or Black Lentils and Moth beans which resemble brown beads when raw but are beyond delish. For those who think this is a recent conversion, check out the throwback video below:
Since moving to Lagos, legumes have been high on my culinary agenda. One of the amazing things about beans and other pulses is their relative ease to prepare. Most of the time it is a case of soaking and boiling until tender and boom – delicious meal, and whilst it is tempting to pimp the beans, and indeed many Nigerian recipes call for it, from akara to moin-moin, simply boiled is a no-brainer treat that can be accompanied with anything.
Difficulty rating: Anyone can do it, promise
¼ cup of Nigerian Brown Beans sometimes referred to as Honey Beans
½ a Red Onion
Salt (to taste)
A recipe with so few ingredients might raise eyebrows or make the nervous amateur cook cheer, but the reason for this is simple; the beans are the undisputed star of the show. To embellish or add would simply detract from this stellar ingredient. Nigerian Brown beans come in two varieties, one in which the beans have a slightly thicker skin and the Honey variety that I used in this recipe. The name Ewa Oloyin is Yoruba for “Beans with Honey” although this variety of bean also grows in the Southern and South Eastern parts of the country, it has a distinct naturally sweet flavor when cooked.
First, pick out any grit or dirt that might be in the beans. I bought mine in the market, so whilst their freshness could not be disputed, cleaning them thoroughly was absolutely essential. For this dish as it really was a cheeky treat rather than my my main meal, I only cooked a quarter cup, but if the beans were forming your main meal a minimum of one cup is advisable multiplying the onion quantity to the same ratio.
Once cleaned, chop up half a red onion. The onions are best roughly chopped as this will allow them to cook at the same rate as the beans rather than completely breaking down. Add them to a pot with the beans and top up with one and half cups of water and salt to taste. Place on a high heat and bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer.
Many will baulk that I haven’t soaked the beans overnight, but I have found that Honey Beans don’t seem to require the same full on soaking treatment that their tough skinned cousins Black Eyed and Kidney do. What I would advise is keeping an eye on your beans while they simmer, as with all ingredients, batches vary, so one might find that your beans require a splash more water. You will know your beans are ready by testing one and it being easy to bite through with a soft centre. If the centre is in any way hard, leave simmering for a while longer adding water to the pot if it has all evaporated.
How you eat the beans is entirely up to you. One might choose to team them up with rice, or try my recent breakfast favourite of accompanied with a boiled egg. However, if we are being truly Lagosian, nothing goes quite like a dollop of stew. Stew in the West African context is essentially a tomato, Scotch Bonnet Pepper and Onion reduction; think African Passata with added heat and bass. However, there are many regional stew variants each positioning itself as the best. As this post is all about beans rather than stew, I will only say mine was Native Stew, super old-school with smoked fish added to the core ingredients. One word, yum.