Full disclosure: I love to cook. For me the kitchen is a place to express my creative side. I generally make things up as I go along, trying out interesting combinations of ingredients sometimes with an existing traditional recipe as a baseline. Most times things turn out well, other times not so well. But don’t worry, when I share recipes I’ll always let you know what worked and what didn’t. 🙂
I’m going to show you how I made this very filling vegan twist on rice and stew for Sunday lunch:
You can’t separate Nigerians and rice on Sundays – either it shows up at lunch, or if it’s swallow for lunch then it will be rice for dinner.
I made chilli sin carne (meatless chilli) in place of stew, with blanched spinach on the side. My mum would always give us spinach with white rice and stew growing up. Contrary to my experience with other vegetables, I loved her blanched spinach. I could eat a whole plate. Here I added mushrooms to spice it up a bit.
Sadly I didn’t have pictures for every single step of the process this time – next time will be better!
So here goes: how to make bean chilli and mushroom spinach
You will need:
- Tomatoes (I used a meaty variety with less water content than usual – reduces cooking time, as the chili is supposed to be quite thick)
2. Onions and garlic
3. Tatashe – apparently the English name is Romano pepper? I saw this short variety in the market and thought they were cute. Turned out to be hotter than the long tatashe though, so I used less of the hot peppers
4. Chili peppers – I used only about half of what you see here
5. Sweet corn – I try to use the frozen kind, not the ones that come in a can. I bought them at Shoprite. Frozen veggies retain more of their nutritional value than the canned type because they aren’t kept in a solution. The good stuff goes into the water over time and then we throw it away when we open the can. We are basically left with starch and fibre at that point, defeating the purpose of vegetables. Plus frozen vegetables don’t need preservatives. I used about 2 1/2 drinking glasses of corn.
6. Red kidney beans – The dry kind, not the canned kind! I got them at Spar supermarket. You can probably find them in supermarkets anywhere there are Indians in Nigeria. I didn’t presoak them, although if I had, it would have reduced cooking time significantly. Presoaking for 3-6 hours is good practice with legumes. I used about 2 drinking glasses of beans. You might want to parboil a large quantity of beans and keep for later use as they take a lot of time to cook, and they are useful for a lot of dishes.
7. Spinach – I used a N50 bunch of spinach from the market – made enough for four people. Prep them by chopping into fat strips, about 1cm wide – too thin and they will go limp too easily!
8. Chestnut mushrooms – got these from Shoprite. N1000 for a box of about 8 mushrooms. I used 4 here. Fresh or dried mushrooms are better than canned, for the same reasons as the sweet corn. Prep the mushrooms by taking off the stalks and slicing from top to bottom.
9. Spices – ground cumin, curry, paprika, black pepper, salt, anything else that tickles your fancy. I don’t cook with flavour enhancers so no Maggi/Knorr/Royco here. Those things are dangerous. If you aren’t already cooking without them, I challenge you to try out my recipes and you’ll find that you never needed them! It’s so easy to cook delicious meals without flavour enhancers; cooking this way allows you to enjoy the real taste of the food.
10. Vegetable oil (optional) – I try to cook without oil as much as possible, but sometimes it’s hard for people to go without it. You can use oil with this recipe, but it’s unnecessary. Try to use olive oil, sunflower oil or coconut oil. I avoid soybean and canola oil because of the risk of consuming GMO soy and canola.
- Cook the kidney beans in lots of water (2:1 ratio) and a little salt until they are soft and squashable. This took me about 3 hours. A pressure cooker will make the cooking much faster, and presoaking helps too. Next time I will definitely presoak!
- Saving one onion for later, blend the onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes until you get a rough paste. Don’t let it become smooth o, we’re not making stew!
- Pour the mixture into a pot and allow to simmer for 30-45 mins. If you’re using oil, put a drizzle of oil in the pot before adding the tomato mix.
- Add spices – I used ground cumin, lots of curry, paprika and salt
5. Add the kidney beans and cover the pot. Leave on low heat to stew for 1 – 3 hours or until the beans start to break down. Check periodically and add enough water to prevent it from burning.
6. In the last 20 mins add the corn and stir. You’re done!
7. Chop or slice the onion you saved earlier. Heat a bit of water in a frying pan or wok – just enough to cover the bottom. Add the onions, mushrooms, black pepper and a pinch of salt. If using oil, sprinkle some over the mushrooms.
8. When the onions become translucent, add the spinach and toss in the pan very briefly – turn off the heat as soon as they become soft and start to soak water.
9. Dish the spinach (with the water!) – I garnished the plate with flowers from the stalk of the plant
10. Enjoy the chilli and spinach with a side of rice – white or brown 🙂