For the longest time, I thought of comfort food as familiar and mostly unhealthy food that makes us feel good. I have recently adjusted my idea of what comfort food should be… you just need to feel good eating it. Whether you get comfort from the cold bland crunch of an iceberg lettuce salad, or the juicy and greasy bite of a perfectly deep fried chicken, comfort food can be anything for anyone. For me this Nigerian beans porridge is the definition of complete comfort, especially on a cold fall evening.
This beans porridge holds a dear place in my heart because once upon a time, I used to hate beans. In my home growing up, we ate beans Tuesday afternoon with our choice of garri (cassava flakes), bread or ogi (a local fermented corn starch porridge, similar in texture to custard). As I got a little older, I fell in love with our Tuesday afternoon beans especially when my mom will make it spicy. It was always perfect on its own, but because my mom turned our back-house to a bread bakery, the aroma of fresh baked bread would beckon me and I could not resist supping up the delicious beans with the warm bread that had only been out of the oven a couple of minutes. Nigerian beans porridge is comfort food to me.
There are three main varieties of beans that my mom uses to make this dish: – honey beans (aka oloyin beans or ewa oloyin), black eyed peas, and Nigerian brown beans. The best beans to use in this recipe are the honey beans because they have a unique and slightly sweet flavor that really elevate your dish, but either of the other beans would do just fine. The Nigerian brown beans look almost identical to the honey beans, so be sure to ask specifically for honey beans if you decide to pick it up at an African market.
If you do not have access to Nigerian brown beans or honey beans, black eyed peas are fine, they just take a little longer to cook and might not be as rich in flavor. Think of the difference in flavor like the difference between grocery store bought tomatoes and vine ripened tomatoes grown at the back of your house… Hopefully this flavor difference this gets you to explore an African store near you.
This recipe can be made vegan, but I wanted to share the original recipe as is made in my home to bring you into my comfort. The only non-vegan ingredients are crayfish and shrimp bullion, and they can be omitted without too much of a flavor difference.
This recipe goes perfectly with my Agege bread by the way if you want to share my childhood experiences with me.
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Nigerian Beans Porridge
- 4 cups Honey beans/ Nigerian brown beans/ Black eyed peas
- ¼ cup palm oil
- 4 Roma tomatoes
- 4 scotch bonnet peppers
- 1 Large red onion
- 1 Large bell pepper
- 5 tbsp Ground dried shrimp (aka cray fish) optional
- 3 tsp Shrimp bullion can be substituted with vegetable bullion if vegan
- Salt to taste
- Rinse the beans and place in a deep pot with 7 cups of water.
- Boil the beans on medium heat until it becomes soft, it could take about 40 mins. If you are using black eyed peas, it might take a little longer.
- While the beans are boiling, blend the tomatoes, peppers, and onions and set aside
- Once the beans are softened from boiling (do not drain the water), turn the heat down to low, the pour in the blended tomatoes into pot.
- Allow the beans to cook for an additional 10 minutes with the tomatoes, then add in the crayfish, bullion and palm oil. Stir, and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Season the beans with salt to your taste. Turn off the heat, and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving