As we enter the depths of winter in the UK, I want to spread a little bit of African colour and warmth. So, yes, we made it to East Africa (after months of plotting as mentioned here). And yes, we brought back some culinary tales and treats (and obligatory photos of lions: see below!)… O, what a trip!
My first African inspired offering is this Swahili dish of red beans, spinach and coconut: Maharagwe.
We sampled this dish in Malindi, a town on the Kenyan coast known for it’s Italian and Arab influences (a few pics below). This blend of cultures meant that we enjoyed an array of culinary delights including lovely home-made ravioli, lots of ice-cream (if you remember, A-L developed an ice-cream obsession in the summer), chapatis, amazing fruit (never has a banana tasted so good) and Swahili dishes like these red beans.
This recipe is my attempt to recreate a dish that was very loosely described to me by the waiter! As I understood it, the recipe uses coconut water/ juice (not the coconut cream or milk that we buy in tins but coconut water that is currently marketed as a drink) which gives the dish a light coconut hint rather than a strong coconut flavour. As with many Kenyan dishes, this recipe is quite substantial and has lots of nutrition packed into it. I have to admit that I feel a bit smug when my daughter happily eats this type of dish because it is full of so many good things. Although, as you’ll see below, she was initially put off by the ‘green bits’!
- Glug of sunflower oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1cm fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
- 100g leaf spinach (I used frozen)
- 300g fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped (about 3 tomatoes)
- 1 can of kidney beans (or equivalent cooked from dried)
- pinch of vegetable stock powder
- 150ml coconut water/ juice (not coconut milk or cream)
- Mild fresh chilli, seeds removed and chopped finely (optional)
- Using a large saucepan, fry the onion in the sunflower oil for a few minutes. You are looking to soften but not brown the onion.
- Add the ginger to the pan and fry for a couple more minutes.
- Add all remaining ingredients (spinach, fresh tomatoes, kidney beans, vegetable stock powder, coconut water and chilli, if using). Give the mixture a good stir, cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Simmer the mixture for 20-30 minutes, giving it an occasional stir. In this time, the tomatoes should break down, the spinach cook and a rich sauce will begin to form.
- If necessary, remove the lid and simmer the maharagwe for a further 5 minutes or so. You are aiming for a rich bean stew, mingling with the spinach and coated in a thick sauce (see photos). Serve by itself or with rice.