If I were ever in a position where I had to pick only one meal that I could eat for the rest of my life, beans and dodo would be up there on the list. It might compete with steak and chips or a good confit de canard or eba and okazi soup, but it would definitely be way up there. There is just something about it. When the beans are cooked all soft and squishy; with the right amount of pepper, onions, palm oil and cray fish, it is right up there with the greatest comfort foods in the world.
As for plantain, I am instinctively certain that there is some sort of naturally occurring euphoric drug contained in it. Have you noticed that if you’re ever at a buffet, the plantain is always one of the first things to finish? There are very few people who don’t love dodo, who don’t get selfish about it, who don’t take more than their fair share. And rightly so. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – there’s only so far my friendship can go with a person who doesn’t like dodo. So please, if you ever meet me in real life and you are one of these ‘conscientious dodo objectors’, please, please declare your stance upfront so I know what I’m dealing with. I don’t want to become friends with you, start trusting you, and then have you break the news to me out of the blue that you don’t like plantain or dodo. I don’t think I can take the pain.
I tend to cook my beans according to the ‘one pot’ eastern Nigerian method, which is the way described above; as opposed to the western Nigerian method where you have plain boiled beans which you eat with a separate stew. I like that version too, but I prefer the one pot version. Without further ado, pictures and recipe below. I made a big batch because I wanted to freeze half of it but feel free to make less if that’s all you need. In this one, I didn’t mess with the recipe, I only jazzed up the presentation but even doing just that lifted the meal a lot and made it more fun. Mackerel (known as kote in the local markets) is a really humble oily fish but one that I enjoy often because of its strong flavour and its high omega 3 fatty acid profile which is good for the brain, the bones and the body in general.
7 cups of beans
2 large onions, sliced
1 large handful of tatase or red bell peppers, blended
Same quantity of tomato, blended
4 ata rodo or scotch bonnet peppers, blended
5 tablespoons ground crayfish
2 cooking spoons palm oil
Lots of drinking water
- Pick the beans, make sure to rid them of any stones, and wash a couple of times in clean water.
- Put the beans in a large pot, cover with clean drinking water (this is Lagos – I never ever cook with tap water) and then put on the fire to boil. Do not add and salt to the pot at this stage. For some reason, it makes the beans take ages to boil.
- While the beans is boiling, pour the palm oil into a pan and let it heat up. Once hot enough, chuck in the onions, pepper and tomatoes and stir. This is the secret of my special beans. This step is where all the flavour comes from. Fry them briskly and then crumble in the stock cubes, and sprinkle on the crayfish. Stir and turn down the heat until it looks like stew.
- Once the flavours have melded, then pour your stew over the beans which should be cooked but still have some water (not much) left in the pot.
- Mix the two together, adjust the seasoning and then turn the heat way down to let it cook into a yummy, potent slurry.
- Now begin to fry the plantain or dodo. I used my beloved AirFryer for this one. Instructions on how to use it *here*.
- Using bamboo skewers to secure the fish and the dodo, plate up and enjoy!
What say you to good old beans? Which style of cooking do you prefer?