Guest Post By: Chidinma Iwu
For folks like me who resent, detest, and abhor the taste and smell of all bean types—from the Pinto to the baby Lima to even the famous cannellini—porridges made with beans are the last thing we want to have as a meal. Gun to the head, maybe—never willingly. Growing up in a typical Nigerian home and being selective of meals are two extremes that never work in hand. If it’s not your mama suggesting large white kidney beans, mashed, moulded into balls and fried for dinner, it’s your papa insisting that they’re cooked as porridge for lunch. Porridges; beans made me never put up with them. Whether yams or plantains or potatoes, I grew distant to whatever a porridge is made with.
Adulthood makes you a better person; you cut down on childhood excesses, you start to be mindful of assignments, you become less selective of food, and you start trying to eat two spoonfuls of beans especially when your parents maintain that the meal is for dinner. Yay. Two spoonfuls become too childish as you progress, get familiarised with your financial environment, and start to cultivate a no-waste habit. If you’re like me, you’ll easily get tensed at the mention of beans—whether by your roommate or your parents or a random person yapping about its magnificence.
Being the creative who strives for intentionality with the meals I eat, I knew I had to fully create a rapport with beans as they owned a long list of nutrients it provided the body with. I also am not ‘the’ chef when you need one, not in the times of desperation, not in the times of trouble. My cooking skills are often measured by my mood and I knew that devising a cooking formula, especially for a meal I hated would be hard. But I went on ahead to try. My mother and father usually followed a straightforward recipe that was passed down by their parents from their grandparents when they cooked beans— I was going to change that. So I created a simple recipe for my least favourite meal.
My mama always had a particular and specific list she used and the first thing I did was to change that. They were the roots of my problems and I delved into changing that.
Instead of palm oil, I got Turkey or Olive oil, and instead of crayfish, I opted for peeled Bonga fish. I also added fresh tomatoes and tomato paste to the mix. These were the main components for tastiness and I had them sorted. So set aside for my recipe, I had;
•Large white kidney beans or Pinto beans: The Pinto beans are a better fit for me as it doesn’t take so much time to prepare and has a unique taste of their own. It also costs more than the white beans. 3-4 cups are always ideal for me as it flexes other ingredients rightly.
•Olive or Turkey oil: I prefer Olive oil as it is more heart-friendly and nutritious. 1 cup of this is ideal for 3-4 cups of beans.
•Fresh tomatoes and tomato paste: Fresh tomatoes are the main components and pastes are not always necessary, but I add 2 spoonfuls of tomato paste to compliment about 5 table tennis ball-sized fresh tomatoes. The paste helps with the reddish colour I love to see.
•Bonga fish: I like to use a lot, so 3 cups do it for me.
•Salt: one teaspoonful is perfect. More would make you hate beans even more.
•Seasoning cubes: you would want to use just 2 cubes. Using more may subdue the taste of other ingredients.
•Onions: one medium-sized red onion is just great!
•Pepper: any type of pepper is ideal, but I prefer red bell peppers as they are easier to measure. You may want to go easy on chilis if you prefer them.
•Water: the amount of water to use often depends on the type of beans cooked. White kidney beans take more time to soften so about 7 cups are great. For Pinto beans, around 3-4 is great!
The tools and equipment for this recipe may vary. Everything boils down to how you want your pepper cut or how you prefer your Bonga fish. For me, an oven or gas cooker, a knife, pot, wooden spatula, chopboard, three fresh bowls, a blender and a pan is fine!
- Wash your desired beans mildly and pour them into a pot with three cups of water before setting them on a stove, gas cooker or in an oven. You may want to pick them carefully if you purchased from a local store. I don’t soak my beans overnight, and this is because it takes away a lot of its taste and that refreshing aroma.
- Beans take quite a while, so this is a great time to start chopping your onions and tomatoes. Chop them to the desired size and cover them carefully in a fresh bowl.
- I blend a part of my peeled Bonga fish and pepper—they come out great. The other half is left unblended. Cover in a clean bowl when done.
- Check the texture of your beans after. A temperature of about 400°F would properly cook your beans for about 20 minutes. You would want to reduce it after the first few minutes of boiling and add the unblended Bonga fish.
- Set your beans aside when it’s soft enough to your desire. Then place a pan atop a heat of about 300°F. Pour in your olive or turkey oil and add the cut tomatoes succeedingly.
- When it’s fried for about 5 minutes, add tomato paste and fry for an extra 3 minutes on lower heat of about 250°F. Add your seasoning cubes, and three pinches of salt and keep frying.
- Now pour the fried mixture into a bigger pot that would fit the quantity of the beans. Ideally medium-sized. Add a cup of water and keep stirring. Increase the heat to about 300°F again.
- Pour the blended Bonga fish and pepper mixture and keep stirring. Add three more pinches of salt and more if you want, but try to keep to moderation.
- Cover the pot and allow to heat for 1min, 30 secs— 2 minutes at most.
- Take your meal off the heat and allow it to cool off by partly covering the pot.
This bean porridge is likely the best you’d eat. From the delicious aroma wafting to your nostrils to the filling taste gracing your tastebuds, you’d do this again. I call it The Tomato Beans Porridge and sometimes, it’s all I want to eat. This meal is more of a standalone and freshly squeezed juice is the perfect companion! Leftovers are so good as the ingredients tend to blend better when it is cool.
For Vegans, you can use more onions and more tomatoes in place of Bonga fish. If you want to eat this as breakfast, you may want to cut down on the onions by half to avoid onion breath. Overall, this is a great meal with the flexibility to fit into numerous diets.
Chidinma Iwu is a writer and content strategist who covers stories about the economy, tech, culture, and women. Her work has appeared in publications like The daily dot, Black Balled, Brittle Paper, Love Happens Mag, The Business of Business & more. She’s almost always on Twitter
@TheDinmaaa, tweeting spontaneously.