Stews are usually my sister’s domain; she makes the tastiest and sauciest stews I’ve ever had, and soups too, savoury and nourishing with comforting heady aromas
You’ll often find her in our little kitchen, busy cutting and slicing vegetables, stirring them into large sizzling pots, seasoning sauces and cooking up hearty and flavourful stews.
My mom when she’s around, would sit at the other end of the dining table chatting idly away as my sister cooks, it’s all very familial and idyllic, and that makes the meals feel more special when we sit down to eat.
Now that we’re entering fall, more and more, I’m looking forward to her delicious stews, like this sweet potato and lentil in a tomatoey broth from two weekends ago and this tortellini soup filled with chunky vegetables.
I like to ease into these cooler temperatures starting with meals like this stewed great northern beans with harissa; it’s a great transitional stew, satisfying and plentiful. The base for the sauce uses sautéed vegetables and spices – onions, tomatoes and peppers, the West African cuisine holy trinity – the flavour base for most of our soups, stews, stock and other dishes.
Just-off-the-vine late summer tomatoes are so very rewarding in this saucy bean dish, they’re juicy and glorious in the beans. We love great northern beans because the beans absorb the sauce’s flavours. I reckon black beans, black eyed peas, chickpeas, etc. would work quite well too.
We cook our own beans, which is ridiculously easy to do (you should try it, if you aren’t already!), and we up the flavour quotient by tossing in some garlic, carrot and bay leaf, and that is like cooking them in vegetable stock.
Harissa boosts the flavours of the beans, adding warmth and a spicy and aromatic kick. Make a big batch, and if you have some pre-cooked rice (or quinoa) on hand, toss it with the beans, if you have any leftover, for dinner or lunch another day.
- 1 cup dried great northern beans (or cannellini or navy beans), picked over and soaked overnight - optional or 2 15-oz canned great northern beans, drained
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 small carrot
- 1 small dried bay leaf
- 1 teaspoons coarse salt or to taste
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, optional
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes or to taste
- 8 - 10 plum tomatoes, chopped or 1 can (16-oz) whole plum tomatoes with juice, pulsed
- 1 tablespoon harissa paste
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt or to taste
- Rinse beans place in a large pot, cover with about 2 1/2 inches water and add garlic, carrot and bay leaf
- Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil and let beans cook for about 10 – 15 minutes
- Reduce heat and let beans simmer until tender (but not bursting), about 35 – 40 minutes
- Add salt, cook for another 5 or so minutes and turn off heat,
- When ready to use, drain beans and reserve about a cup of the bean water, remove and discard garlic, carrot and bay leaf
- In a medium heavy-bottomed pot, heat coconut oil over medium heat
- Add cumin, turmeric, onion, garlic and pepper flakes
- Sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions start soften but not browned, about 3 minutes
- Add tomatoes, drained beans and 1/4 cup of the bean water and let stew cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, and letting it come to a gentle boil
- Add harissa paste, rosemary, dried oregano and salt, and reduce heat
- Let stew simmer for another 5 - 10 minutes or so to let the flavours meld and tomato sauce thicken
- Check seasoning and add more salt
- Note: Add another 1/4 - 1/2 cup bean water or more if you prefer more a more saucy stew.