Monthly Archives: May 2020

Ibiharage

Continuing the idea from the last post that less expensive but still tasty dishes are particularly appreciated at present, here is another recipe from the first year of the previously mentioned column, along with a bit of background on the ingredients — because I’m a food historian and can’t help myself.

As far back as ancient Mesopotamia, onions were considered to be virtually a panacea. Well, they weren’t too far from being right — onions are antibiotic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, contain a powerful antioxidant (quercetin) which also acts as a sedative, and can lower your cholesterol. (Unfortunately, for some people, they can also aggravate heartburn or cause gas.) The greatest benefit is to be gained from raw onions, but even cooked onions have most of these beneficial properties to some degree.

Onions probably got into Central Africa by way of Egypt. As early as 3000 B.C., Egyptian traders were bartering seeds, tools, agricultural knowledge and domesticated animals with tribes in Eritrea and Somalia, in exchange for frankincense and myrrh.

Africa would have to wait another 4,500 years for the hot red peppers and white beans used in this recipe. All chilies/hot peppers come from the New World, but almost everyone else in the world enthusiastically embraced the “violent fruit,” as Columbus called it, once it was introduced by early traders. White beans (most commonly navy beans or great northern beans in this recipe) are also indigenous to the Americas–along with all the other members of the family known as common or haricot beans (so kidney beans, pintos, black turtle beans, and even green beans).

So African cuisine combines ingredients that stretch back for millennia with those that have been available for a mere 500 years. This recipe for fried beans is from Burundi, in Central Africa, and I think it’s about the easiest thing you can do with beans and still produce a dish that is really delicious.

Ibiharage
2 cups dry white beans
boiling water
1 tsp. chicken or vegetable bouillon
1/2 cup cooking oil
3 large onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
dried hot red pepper to taste (at least 1/4 tsp. crushed)

Wash and sort the beans. Put beans in large saucepan and cover with 4-6 cups boiling water. Boil 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let soak 1 hour or more. Return beans to stove. (As always, if beans cause you intestinal distress, you can drain and rinse beans after they soak, which will reduce “side effects” of bean consumption. Then replace soaking water with fresh.) Add bouillon to water, and simmer beans until tender, about 1-1/2 hours.

Heat oil in a 12-inch saucepan. Add onions and garlic to hot oil and cook until onions are transparent and soft. Drain cooked beans and add to onions; cook for 5 minutes. Add salt and hot pepper to taste. Mix well. Serves 8-10 as a side dish, 6-8 as a main course.

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Kansiyé

Twenty-four years ago, I began writing a column that focused on recipes that were, on the whole, fairly inexpensive and generally interesting. The column lasted for almost thirteen years. A few of the recipes from back then have been updated and included on this blog, but I thought that, as we hunker down and “shelter in place” during the coronavirus scare, it might be a good time to trot out a few more of those recipes–because we hear daily that people are short on funds but long on free time, and that cooking is one of the things folks are doing more of.

Kansiyé is a dish from Guinea, West Africa. This is the first recipe I published back in 1996. After the “real” recipe, I’ve also included my vegetarian version of the dish–not because I’m a vegetarian but because I’m a writer, and going cheap has at times been a necessity. Worth noting, aside from being my first recipe in the column, it is the recipe that received the most positive feedback from people who made it, and for whom it became part of the regular rotation. So I think there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this.

Kansiyé

1 pound beef or lamb, cut in 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. thyme
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 whole clove, ground
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups water
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
cooked rice

Brown meat in oil in 10-inch frying pan. Add onion, salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, parsley and clove. Combine tomato sauce and 1 cup water, add to meat mixture and stir well. Dilute peanut butter in remaining cup of water and add to mixture. Cook over medium heat for 1 hour, or until meat is tender. Serve hot over the cooked rice. Serves 4.

Variation: To make this recipe vegetarian, just substitute lentils for the meat. Eight to 10 ounces of lentils (dry) replace 1 pound of meat. Soak the lentils for an hour or so before using them in the recipe, and watch the stew while it’s cooking, adding water if the lentils soak up too much of the sauce. You can add a little bouillon or miso to the stew, if you feel you need to boost the beef flavor, but I find that the meaty taste of the lentils alone is enough.

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