Saturday, November 14, 2009

Recipe #29: Crockpot bean stew (Asedua) with adzuki beans and smoked fish

In Ghana, usually a soup is boiled and has more liquid, and a stew is fried and has less liquid. These distinctions are not always clear, and sauces or gravies have elements of both.

Here is my crockpot version of a bean stew called asedua in Twi. It uses adzuki  beans which substitute well for the beans in Ghana. I prefer adzuki beans to small kidney beans, which I've also used. They seem to have more substance and flavor. Also,  the step of first frying the "ingredients" (the onions, peppers, tomatoes) and other spices is omitted to adapt to the crock pot method of slow simmering. This recipe also replaces the traditional salt fish and dried fish with smoked fish, and I've reduced the amount of oil in the stew. Increase it if you must. You'll also notice: no seasoning cubes here.

Adzuki beans take a  while to cook, so either soak them the night before or use the "quick soak" method where you boil them for a couple of minutes, let them sit covered for an hour, drain, and then proceed. [Of course, if you were using canned or pre-cooked beans, you could just mash some of the beans, and then put everything in the crockpot to cook on low.]

Recipe #29: Crockpot bean stew with adzuki beans and smoked fish

Wash and pick over 2 cups of adzuki beans (a little less than 1 lb.), and soak them overnight or by the quick soak method for an hour.
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped (or, just cut it in half and remove the seeds, so you can remove it before serving the stew), OR dried ground red pepper to taste
1 large onion, coarsely chopped or grated (Or, chop half of it and put the other part in whole and grind/mash it when you grind/mash the beans)
1/3 cup red palm oil (if no palm oil, substitute another oil such as peanut), OR use 1/2 cup pulp from a can of cream of palm fruit. Be careful around the carotene-rich palm oil as it can stain if you spill it.
1 cup of well-drained canned tomatoes, peeled and seeded if you wish (I favor Italian plum tomatoes, which are pulpier)
1/3 cup tomato juice from the can
3 Tablespoons of tomato paste, optional (if you like a more pronounced tomato flavor)
6 - 8  oz. of smoked fish (I like mackerel, but smoked salmon, whiting, etc. also work. If you use smoked salted herring, first soak and/or simmer in water separately before adding to the stew or it will overpower it).

Place the drained beans, 2 1/2 cups of water, the tomato juice, tomatoes, tomato paste (if using), hot pepper, onion, and palm oil in the crock pot.  Break up the tomatoes with your fingers as you add them.

Cover and cook on high until the beans are soft, about 4-5 hours  (longer if you use the low setting).

Remove about half of the beans and mash them (or put them in a blender or food processor to grind) and return them to the crockpot.  Grind or mash any large pieces of pepper or onion with the beans, or remove them if you prefer a milder stew. Rinse the smoked fish, remove the skin and any bones  and add it to the crockpot in pieces. Add a teaspoon of salt (or less if the fish is very salty). Stir well and let it cook for another half hour or so on low for the flavors to blend. Just before serving check to see if you need to adjust the salt (I added another teaspoon) or add water if it seems too thick.

Variations: if you like okra, cook some separately and add it or serve it one the side, or add frozen cut okra to the stew about an hour before serving. Also, if you like spicier stews, add some fresh garlic and ginger, and increase the amount of hot pepper, or substitute a habanero for the jalapeno. If you like it less spicy, just use a little dried ground red pepper.

Stove top version: If you don't have a crockpot, and want to make the stew, just cook the beans first and mash or grind half of them, then fry the onion in the palm or other oil, add the tomatoes and red pepper, fish and beans and water and simmer for half an hour.

This hearty stew goes well with just about any starch, from rice or gari to banku or boiled potatoes (that's what I had handy tonight), ripe plantains or yams, boiled or fried. I didn't have any okra, so just sauteed some greens to go with it. You'll notice the ubiquitous hot sauce is served on the side.

This stew freezes and/or reheats well and easily in the microwave.
Voila! Dinner is ready. I'll sign off now so I can eat.

Check back next week if you want to learn more about flavored oils, fresh pepper sauces, as well as "shito" (aka "black pepper.") They are next on my list to cover.

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