Having grown up in East Africa a staple dish is quite simply “rice and beans”, different areas prepare it differently and recipes vary greatly from spiced coconut versions found in some coastal regions, to simple ones with only onions and salt inland and I discovered in Malawi the addition of peanut paste. Me being me,  decided to combine the lot and add GARLIC! Traditionally the dish is made with red kidney or pinto beans although I have recently experimented using black turtle beans too.

Pulses are particularly rich in folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and potassium. These are all essential minerals for the everyday functions of our bodies, namely DNA replications, oxygen transport and energy production, nerve impulse and muscle contraction, energy production and nerve and muscle relaxation, immune function and hydrochloric acid production, and heart heath respectively.

In North Western Kenya there are a number of pro-athlete training camps particularly for long distance and endurance events due to the high altitude and clean air, studies on both local and internation athletes showed the greatest improvements with the subjects were put on a local diet of rice and beans accompanies by various bitter leafy green indigenous to the area. Imagine my delight at hearing this! So rice and beans it is.

Ingredients – serves 6

300g dried kidney or black turtle beans

400g coconut milk or 200g creamed coconut

1/2 tin organic chopped tomatoes or 3 fresh chopped tomatoes

4 tbsp organic crunchy peanut butter, palm oil and sugar free

2 red onions, sliced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tbsp coconut oil or simply use the oil from the creamed coconut packet

2 tbsp Garam Marsala or a combination of turmeric, cumin and coriander if you don’t have the blend.

salt to taste


Now this is a dish of patience and forward planning however you can speed it up buy using precooked beans if you are in a rush.

Soak the beans for 8-16 hours depending on your available time but be aware not to allow the red kidney beans to sprout tails as this increases the lectin content 1000 fold and can be very dangerous. If you see little tails appear, toss them out and start again.

Drain the water off and put in a large pot and cook for 2 hours in salted water until soft, depending on water softness, altitude and age of the dried beans you may need more time. At this point, having a bath, watching a film, catching up with your partner/flatmate is a good call because watched beans do not boil.

When the beans are looking promising, drain them slightly leaving a little of the cooking water in the pot. In a separate pan heat the coconut oil and sautee the onions until soft and starting to brown slightly, add the spice and stir until the aromatics are released.  Add the mixture to the beans and allow to simmer for 10 minutes before adding the coconut and peanut butter, again allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes whilst you prepare the rice and veggies to accompany your amazing beans.

Just before serving add the grated garlic, tomatoes and you may like to add some grated ginger also for an extra kick. Comfort food the Kenyan way (with a Tatu Twist).