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These Beans are on Fire!

Think I have been hearing too much election campaigns lately. By the time I post this, I believe the people of Chaguanas would have decided on a member of parliament for Chaguanas West. Elections are great affairs in theory; reality is a whole other ball-game. While you want to get all your facts and hear what each candidate has to offer, more often than not the campaign becomes sidelined by how bad the other candidate is, leaving little room for the real issues. Hopefully one day we will get the “new politics” that we have been promised in Trinidad.
In the category of beans and legumes there are many great candidates; red beans. black eye beans, channa, pigeon peas, mung beans, urad dhal, green lentils, lima beans, red lentils, pinto beans, soya beans, the normal yellow dhal that we use in Trinidad to make dhal etc.
Beans in general are great sources of protein and if you’re vegetarian, like I was for over 16 years, your major source of protein. When you’re vegetarian, you really start to appreciate beans in all their glory. In Trinidad, the beans most used are red beans with lentils a close second followed by black eyed beans and pigeon peas when in season. And with respect to dhal, the average trini would only think of the yellow kind, since this has been used so much to make dhal, it’s even called dhal! The older folks will remember urdi dhal and mung but nobody really uses these varieties as much anymore.  

When it comes to beans one of my favorite is red beans, and I love it stewed. You can find stewed red beans all over Trinidad, it’s a popular staple eaten with fried rice, stewed chicken, macaroni pie and callaloo for lunch.  When it comes to dhal, my favourite would be mung beans. They are light and easy to digest and the washed split version cooks in 10 minutes. Urad dhal looks like black mung beans, and take much longer to cook but have a rich flavour and silky texture.
You can make these with the canned red beans or you can soak the beans for a few hours to overnight and the boil them till soft. Make sure you boil them as red beans have some chemical that is neutralized when boiled. This red beans recipe is easy and quick if you have already cooked red beans on hand. I ate mines with slices of zaboca (avocado) and buttered toast. I was too hungry to boil rice but it tasted great anyway. The avocado was a nice idea as it added a lightness to balance the rich coconut milk. You don’t have to use coconut milk, it will taste great without it. Enjoy!

Makes 5-8 servings
Time 1 ½ hrs beans cooking time + 45 mins
Skill Easy
Cuisine Trini, vegetarian, low fat, vegan
Difficulty: Medium

2¼ c     red beans cooked
2tb        vegetable oil
2tb        sugar
1 ½       onion minced/sliced
5           cloves garlic minced
2           pimento peppers minced
1           whole congo pepper
2           tomatoes diced
2tb        chives chopped
1            sprigs thyme
    2tb       ketchup
    5          splashes Worcestershire sauce
    3tb       coconut milk powder (optional)
    1/4tsp  chilli powder
    Pinch   black pepper
  1. If using dried red beans, soak beans overnight or for a few hours, and discard liquid. Add beans to a pot and cover with water and boil until soft. Alternately use canned red beans. 
  2. Put a dry saucepan on medium heat and add oil and sugar. Have a ½ cup of water on hand and a pot cover that will cover the saucepan.
  3. Lower heat and wait till sugar caramelises and makes big bubbles. Cover pot leaving a space where you can pour the water into the pan so that of the oil splashes the cover will protect you.

  4. When the pot stops sizzling, remove cover and add onions and garlic and cook down. Add tomatoes and pimentos and cook for a few more minutes. These veggies will cook down and melt and make a thick sauce for the red beans. Heat some water to boiling in a kettle.

  5. Add beans now to pot and worcestershire sauce, chilli powder and black pepper and stir to incorporate.
  6. Add hot water, just enough to cover beans and stir. 
  7. Add sprig of thyme and whole congo pepper at this stage. 
  8. Let simmer on low heat for ½ hour, adding more water if necessary.
  9. When the sauces looks thick and almost done, mix the coconut milk powder with a little water and adds to pot and mix. Or use fresh coconut milk if you have.
  10. Take off heat and add chives and bandania if you have. I didn’t have bandania (chadon beni).
  • Dont add whole congo pepper with onions and garlic. You don’t want to fry the pepper as it will get hotter. Also unless everyone who will eat this loves hot pepper, keep it whole during the cooking process.
  • Add chives at the end do they stay green and crisp and keep their bright flavour.



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