Plantain and beans; it sounds so exotic now, almost foreign, yet it used to be my favourite food not too long ago.
This beloved Ghanaian food of fried plantains and stewed beans holds a special place in my heart – sold by street vendors and a staple in homes, it’s one of the few meals I actually looked forward to eating when I was a child.
A dish so good it’s named twice – we call it ‘red red’, for the red palm oil and tomatoes that turns the bean stew red, and the golden red hue of the plantains when fried, or in this case, baked.
There are countless similar versions of this plantain and beans cooking in West African kitchens and all over the world.
Over here in our part of the globe, we typically wait for warmer weather when the plantains ripen better and sweeter just like back home.
I should mention that this is really my sister’s dish, she diligently chooses the finest looking plantains, let it ripen further and spend days planning this meal – I’m always super nice to her in the days leading up to ‘plantain and beans’
I should also mention that this recipe isn’t wholly plant based; apologies to my vegan buddies – although it can be easily be made vegan by swapping out the anchovies for mustard seeds, cumin and harissa to give the palm oil a flavour boost, and you probably won’t miss the smoked salmon if you omit it.
We’re planning on a solely plant-based version this summer, so stay tuned.
Like most Ghanaian dishes, there’s versatility to this plantain and beans, it can be tweaked and adapted to suit countless tastes and preferences.
My aunt S. cooks her beans very soft till they’re almost falling apart, then she sautés onions in palm oil and adds the beans to the oil with a little salt and let it simmer while she fries her plantains – simple, hearty and delicious.
We’ve been frying our plantains in the oven for a few years now, and it works superbly, yielding deliciously sweet plantains to go with the stewed beans.
I love this dish, it’s comforting and tastes like home, a meal for sharing with loved ones.
It’s the type of meal that is so much better with good company and good wine, perhaps an Argentinian Malbec.
Stewed Black-Eyed Peas
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup red palm oil (preferably from West Africa)
- 2 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, diced (omit or use less for milder taste)
- 1 28-oz can diced/chopped tomatoes (about 3 cups chopped tomatoes)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 1/2 – 4 cups cooked black-eyed peas (about 2 15-oz canned beans)
- 6-oz smoked salmon, chopped into bite-size pieces (optional or some other type of smoked fish)
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt to taste
- Heat palm oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat
- When oil is hot, add anchovies, garlic and onions, and sauté for about five minutes, until onions start to soften
- Add cumin, ginger, pepper, tomatoes and tomato paste and let it cook for another 3 – 5 minutes until it comes to a gently boil, stirring occasionally
- Add black-eyed peas and smoked salmon, lower heat and let the mixture simmer for another 5 – 8 minutes
- Add smoked paprika and salt, stir, check seasoning, and let stew cook for 3 – 5 minutes and the palm oil rises to the top as the flavours meld
- Serve with oven baked plantains
Oven Baked Plantains
- 3 – 4 very ripe plantains (yellow!)
- 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Preheat to oven 375°F. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Rinse, peel plantains and cut them diagonally in 1/2 – 1-inch slices
- Drizzle olive oil over sliced plantains and sprinkle with salt to taste
- Mix or toss to coat and arrange plantains in the parchment lined baking sheet in a single layer
- Roast for up to 30 mins or until golden brown, turning them occasionally every ten minutes or so for both sides to brown evenly
- Serve with stewed black-eyed peas