xmlns:fb='http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml' Trinidadian Stewed Red Beans

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Trinidadian Stewed Red Beans

Change seems to be the only constant in my life. Recently, I learned that my 10 year tenure on Wall Street is ending and I am being re-located to Midtown, NYC. One extra hour of commute time daily. Some things you just can’t fight or complain about in life. 

In the whirlwind of life, one thing has remained unchanged, that’s dinner every evening at 6:30 pm (sometimes closer to 7) with my family. [This will most likely change when I move]. Thirty minutes prior to that the kitchen is overcome with the hustle and bustle of dinner preparations. Everyone gets involved, the Dah helps me locate ingredients in the pantry and refrigerator, Lani, the 10 yr old sets the table, fills the glasses with cold water and hovers around the pot curiously while sharing the events of her day.  Daria, the 11 yr old, who is always indisposed studying, reading, or face-timing, appears at the last minute to heat the rice or help dish out food. Then we sit, hold hands(most days—it’s complicated), pray, bless our food and enjoy our dinner. There is love and excitement, again most days. These are the moments I live for. These are the moments that make all the sacrifice worth it.

Father's Day Menu:  Jasmine Rice, Stewed Red Beans, Stewed Lamb, Boil and Fry Cassava, Trini Chow Mein, Sautéed Broccolini, Greek Salad

I never cook red beans during the week because everyone is always beyond starving when we walk through the door. I prepare the beans on a Saturday to be eaten on Sunday and the leftovers are eaten during the week, accompanied by different meat or fish dishes.

In my recipe, red beans are soaked overnight, then boiled. After boiling, the flavor of the beans is enhanced with the addition of aromatic vegetables, herbs and coconut milk. Stewed red beans are a mainstay in traditional Trinidadian cuisine. For a typical Sunday lunch, it is usually accompanied by stewed chicken or curried chicken, rice and a salad of lettuce or watercress, sliced tomatoes and cucumber and the occasional macaroni pie.

Mummy mentioned that her mother served it at Easter along with callaloo, [also stewed meats and boiled ground provisions], which I thought was rather odd; since my limited mentality has always been either one or the other at a meal, until I attempted that combination myself. After I came to terms with the guilt, I thought that the meal of both callaloo and stewed red beans, which I served with a stewed pork and beef one pot combo, was exceptional, fascinating, and almost luxurious.

Cousins "Lime" Menu : Jasmine Rice, Dhal, Curried Duck, 
Stewed Red Beans, Mango Takari, Salad

I’ve had some bad experiences with boiling beans.  You could say that I have met the red beans from hell. Once I boiled red beans for hours and it refused to boil. I was so traumatized by the experience that I stopped cooking beans for several months, until I decided it was time to feel the fear of disgrace and failure and do it anyway. A long story short, what I learned is that red kidney beans prefer to be unencumbered when they are boiling. Leave them alone. Do not touch them. Do not add any ingredients until they are ready, that is until they are tender. If it sounds like this bean has a serious case of PMS, it probably does. 

To soak or not to soak? Sigh. Some believe that soaking of the beans not only cleans them, it reduces the cooking time and also removes the indigestible complex sugars (oligosaccharides) which cause gas. 

More recently I tested both, I soaked overnight and also just for an hour or two, and found that there isn’t a big difference, and it really did not affect me from a “gaseous” standpoint, if you know what I mean. But that’s just my body, my personal experience. That’s all I can talk about. If it did affect anyone else in the household, I am not allowed to divulge that information either. Test it for yourself and I pray you don’t tell me the outcome.

Ria's Trinidadian Stewed Red Beans
Serves 6-8

To boil beans
1 cup dried red or pink kidney beans
6 cups water (to boil)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
½ cup cubed pumpkin (squash or caribbean calabaza) [optional]
1 medium carrot, sliced
 4 sprigs thyme
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ block pure creamed coconut [optional]

To stew
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ketchup

2-3 tablespoons green seasoning
½ lb plum tomato (about 3 small)
1 celery stalk, chopped

½ small red or green sweet pepper
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 medium onion, chopped
About 2 teaspoons Himalayan salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 Prep and Boil Beans:
1. Soak the beans overnight. Wash. Drain. Wash, peel and chop veggies. 

2. In a medium saucepan over high heat, add 6 cups water, beans, oil, sugar. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes until cooked but still firm. 

3. Add pumpkin, carrots, 4 sprigs of thyme, garlic, and ¼ block of creamed coconut, if using. 

Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and cook until beans are tender, but still whole, about 30-45 minutes. Set aside.

Stew beans:
1. In a heavy bottomed pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add brown sugar and allow it to bubble, froth and darken. 

2. Add ketchup, green seasoning, tomatoes, celery, sweet pepper, garlic and onion, stir well to combine. 
Cover and cook for 15 minutes, over low heat, stirring every 5 minutes. You may add 1/4 cup of water to help in the cooking process. 

3. Stir in beans with liquid. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add additional 1-2 cups of water if there isn’t enough liquid.  

Bring to a boil, immediately reduce heat to low, cover pot and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until sauce thickens. Taste for salt and black pepper. Add more if necessary. 

Be not afraid to attempt stewed read beans from scratch. If you don't you will be missing out on the most flavorful and delicious stewed red beans you ever ate....

Live your best life now,
With love,


Cooking with Ria said...

My father makes the best red beans but I think your recipe might trump his! I'm definitely going to try your recipe. It looks divine-I love red beans!

Cooking with Ria said...

If I were to try this with canned beans, any tips.

Cooking with Ria said...

Great recipe!

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