Red Red – Ghanaian Black Eyed Beans Stew

Believe it or not, I used to hate beans. It was only until a year and a half ago (when I gave up meat) that I started to eat more beans and pulses. It was then that I realised they aren’t so bad.

Red Red is a traditional Ghanaian stew made with black eyed beans and tomatoes. The name comes from the colour of stew as it is normally cooked in palm oil. Red Red is typically served with fried ripe (yellow) plantains.

My parents make this regularly and it was not long ago that I thought ‘I’d better make this myself’. So, I did. If you’re like me, you’d prepare this meal at least a day in advance by soaking the black eyed beans in water overnight. I don’t tend to use canned beans for this, but, if it makes your life easier, definitely go for it!

Make sure you have an apotoyewaa (clay grinding pot/large pestle and mortar) at hand, otherwise, be prepared to finely dice onions and scotch bonnet peppers!

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 500g black eyed beans, soaked in water overnight and washed
  • 200ml palm oil
  • 1 large onion, half sliced, half diced
  • 2 scotch bonnet peppers
  • 400g chopped tomatoes, canned or fresh
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes (I used Knorr)
  • 2 tsp season-all
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 200ml warm water
  • Salt to taste

Method

  1. In a large pot, boil the black eyed beans for 30 – 50 minutes over medium-high heat until soft. Ensure that there is always water in the pot so the beans do not dry up and risk getting burned.
  2. While the beans are boiling, grind up the diced onions and scotch bonnet peppers with a dash of warm water, until you get a smooth mixture.
  3. Heat the palm oil in another pot over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the ground onions and scotch bonnet mixture to the pot and fry off for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the sliced onions and garlic and fry until the onions are soft.
  6. Add in the chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock cubes, season all, ginger and paprika. Stir until the stock cubes have dissolved and are fully incorporated. Cover the pot and leave to cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add the warm water to the pot, stir, then leave to cook for a further 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Once the beans are fully cooked, drain them, leaving some liquid behind. Add the beans and the liquid to the tomato stew and stir until will combined. Check for salt/seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  9. The Red Red is now ready to be served – enjoy with some fried ripe plantains and/or rice!

Vegetable Noodle Soup

A warming, light noodle soup packed with a variety of crunchy and soft vegetables, topped off with a soft-boiled egg.

This dish is definitely a new favourite of mine and is very simple to make. The first time I made it was during winter; evenings were cold and coursework deadlines were nearing fast. After a long day of work, this meal kept the cold away and gave me a much needed boost of energy.

If an egg isn’t for you, try this recipe using a protein of your choice such as chicken or beef.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 200g dry udon noodles
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 700ml vegetable stock (or two vegetable stock cubes dissolved in 700ml of boiling hot water)
  • 50ml mirin
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • Salt to taste
  • 80g spring greens, sliced
  • 120g shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1 large bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 large free range eggs (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed chillies (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Fry the minced garlic and ginger for thirty seconds to one minute. Add the onions and mushrooms, stir and cook for two minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the mirin and soy sauce. Cook for another minute.
  3. Add the vegetable stock and the spring greens into the pot. Stir and leave to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust salt/seasoning if necessary.
  4. In a smaller pot, boil water and place in the eggs. Boil the eggs for six to seven minutes to achieve a soft yolk. Once cooked, place in cold water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled, peel off the egg shell.
  5. In another pot, cook your noodles according to the packet’s instructions (the brand I used needed only three minutes).
  6. To serve, place the noodles in a bowl, pour over the vegetable soup along with the mushrooms, onions and spring greens. Top with the boiled egg sliced in half, the chopped spring onions and the sliced bell peppers. Sprinkle over some crushed chillies and enjoy!

Spinach & Artichoke Pasta Bake

After watching numerous videos on ‘spinach artichoke dip’ or ‘spinach artichoke bread’, I jumped on the bandwagon and decided to make a spinach and artichoke pasta bake.

Cheese and spinach I love, so that wasn’t a problem. However, I had never tried artichokes until having this dish. I was a little bit hesitant, but after giving this new veg a taste, it made a great addition. I can understand why everyone loves the spinach and artichoke combination now!

This dish is really simple to make and lends from my Turkey and Bacon Pasta recipe. I added vegetable stock, cream cheese, cheddar, and parmesan to make a flavourful and creamy cheese sauce.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 250g pasta of your choice (I used wholewheat fusilli)
  • 150g baby spinach
  • 1 can (400g) artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 250ml milk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (I prefer Knorr)
  • 30g grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp light cream cheese (I used Philadephia Light)
  • 100g grated mature cheddar (use 40g for topping)
  • 1 tsp season-all
  • 1 tsp ground garlic
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (for topping)
  • 1 tsp black pepper (1/2 tsp for topping)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/ gas mark 4.
  2. Boil the pasta according to packet instructions, but remove from the heat 2 minutes before the suggested time.
  3. On a low heat, melt the butter in the pan and then add the flour. Stir for 2 minutes until the mixture becomes a smooth consistency.
  4. Pour in a quarter of the milk at a time, then the stock cube, and stir until the mixture blends smoothly.
  5. Add in the cream cheese, grated parmesan and cheddar, and stir until the cheeses melt into a smooth mixture.
  6. Add the spinach, artichokes, season-all, ground garlic, paprika and black pepper into the pan. Stir into the sauce until the spinach wilts. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  7. By now, the pasta should be cooked. Drain and add the pasta to the sauce, stirring until the pasta is covered evenly.
  8. Pour the pasta into an oven dish, top with the cheddar, paprika, and black pepper, and bake for 15 minutes.
  9. Enjoy!
Spinach Artichoke (1)

Tip: If your sauce is too thick, add some milk. If it’s too thin, add more flour and cheese.


Meat-free: Week 16

I’ve made it to week 16!

These last few months have been very interesting. I’ve tried foods that I would have never usually have before: some good, some bad. I’ve also noticed myself leaning towards one particular type of cuisine.

Weeks 5 – 8 saw myself going for a variety of seeds/grains/pasta such as:

  • Bulgur
  • Brown rice
  • Couscous
  • Quinoa
  • Wholewheat pasta
  • Wild rice

Bulgur or couscous would be used in a stir-fry along with soy sauce, and vegetables such as peppers, onions and mushrooms.

I’d cook quinoa and mix in vegetables similar to the above, but top with feta or halloumi, and a squeeze of lemon or lime for some freshness.

Brown rice with a stew or curry was one of my go-to’s. Otherwise, I’d have a mix of brown rice and wild rice with stewed or roasted vegetables.

Wholewheat pasta was used to make delicious pasta bakes, topped with cheese of course.

I was also trying to find a vegetarian burger at this point – not the burgers that only have a portobello mushroom as the ‘patty’. I’ve tried the falafel type burgers – one from a restaurant, and one at home – and surprisingly, they were heavy. Flavour was there, but it was a mission trying to finish them.

Weeks 9 – 15 I explored Indian food. Before removing meat from my diet, I only had Indian food once in a blue moon. But, if I was to order out on a Friday from an Indian takeaway, I’d go for a Chicken Dhansak.

Now, I’ve had many dishes that include ingredients such as spinach, paneer, potatoes and lentils. Indians really do make vegetarian dishes taste great!

Despite the variety of food, week 16 saw the temptation for meat come in. I’m actually starting to miss it now. I gave in and tried a vegetarian sausage, thinking it would taste nice. It tasted like cardboard. Safe to say I’m never having that again.

I wonder how long this can last because… I could really do with a good burger right now.


Meat-free: Week 4

Four weeks have passed since giving up meat/fish. It has been fun, but I can’t lie, that first week was a struggle. Here are some quick dives into some of my experiences so far.

Fatigue hit hard

The first week as mentioned, was a struggle. Now surprisingly, it wasn’t because I was craving any meat/fish, it was because of the lack of energy I had. When I still had time off work for the Christmas & New Year break, I could easily take an afternoon nap to rejuvenate. As soon as I was back at work however, it was a mission staying awake.

tenor

If I didn’t get up and take walks, I would have knocked out on my desk. That would have been absolutely shambolic.

Snacking increased

For these first four weeks, some of my meals felt incomplete. The cravings for savoury snacks were something else. Plantain crisps were definitely my go-to (shout out to Asiko). A couple of changes to some meals have gradually curbed these cravings.

Lunch got a lot more interesting

Before 2018, my lunches for work weren’t very inspiring. It would either be some sort of sandwich or a boring salad. Now the challenge of having no meat forces me to be more creative with food, so that I can get the right amount of nutrients.

Pulses are key

So I don’t like many types of beans, let’s get that clear. But lentils and peas? Love them. Before scrapping meat/fish, I’d never actually tried lentils. Not only are pulses an alternative to regular ol’ rice, but they are great sources of protein, iron, and fibre.

Speaking of fibre…

I noticed that the number of bathroom breaks went up.

Need I say more?

tenor (1)

Overall, this challenge has started off quite well, despite the initial hurdles. I haven’t missed the taste of meat (yet), but we’ll see how long that lasts.

Now to conquer February.


New Year, No Meat?

I’m back after giving myself a cheeky two month break – sometimes you just have to!

2018 is going to be a crazy year: that I know for sure. My internship continues until July, followed by going to Ghana in August (speaking this into existence), and then starting my Masters in September. Let me not forget about other things like: house hunting/finding housemates, graduate applications, and learning how to learn again.

I’m getting a headache already.

Anyway, during these past few months, I’ve been getting a bit bored of meat. I haven’t been the hugest red meat eater: it was normally just chicken, turkey, and fish at home. However, if I went out for a meal, I’d try and go for something different – red meat, or some sort of crustacean.

It got to a weird point where someone would ask if I’m vegetarian because I picked up a veggie-friendly meal one too many times. Well, the answer was no. I just like my veg, you know?

Except avocados… those are horrendous, sorry.

So, as a little challenge for myself, I’m going to see how long I can give up meat and fish for – the aim is one year. This could perhaps reshape my creativity with food as well.

I’m looking forward to the challenge, and this new year will bring in more recipes, reviews, and maybe some rants.

See you in the next post!