a Liberian dish from Albert Quayee
Zwedru, Liberia
1 1/2 cups beans salt to taste
1 gin bottle full of palm oil hot pepper to taste
1 large onion 2 chicken bullion cubes
1 small can tomato paste 1 pound meat if desired

Soak a cup and a half of beans overnight.  Whatever kind of beans they sell at the market that day will do.  Boil the living daylights out of them until they are easily mashable.  Mash half of the beans to smithereens.

In a deep pot pour in a gin bottle full of oil (half cup) or about a cup if you want it really Liberian.  If you want it more American, only put in enough to saute one onion.

Brown the onions and dump in a container of tomato paste.  Add salt and pepper to taste, one teaspoon of red peppers, and a couple chicken bouillon cubes.  Pour in the mashed and unmashed beans into the pot and bury it all in water -- about a cup or two.  Then boil it all away.  When the soup is thick, it's done.

Serve over rice.

Victoria's Beans Gravy
Zwedru, Liberia

This second recipe is the only one I’ve ever seen in Liberia that did not include red palm oil.  So, if you have qualms about deforesting the rainforest for red palm oil groves, this recipe is for you.

Jouthy, the coordinator for the American Corner Library in Zwedru, invited me to his home for one of my Liberian favorites, beans gravy.  However, when he took me to his place, we headed in the direction of the mosque instead of the Telecom tower.  I said, “I thought you lived in the other direction.”  He replied, “I’m an African man.  That’s where my other wife lives.  I have two.”  It was news to me.  Possibly to you, too.

Victoria made a great beans gravy.  And, like so often happens when friends gather to eat, we exchanged recipes.  I learned how to make her African dish while she learned how to make chocolate no-bake cookies.

4 cups of beans 2 handfuls of dried peppers
1 leg of meat   3 maggi (bouillon) cubes
3 cups of yellow oil 1 Tbs salt
1 small can tomato paste  1 small mountain of rice per person  

Victoria told me that you could use any beans available for the dish – red, black or white were at the market in Zwedru.  For her dish, she prepared the gravy with black beans. She didn’t mention anything about washing or soaking the beans.  I know you really want to wash the beans you buy in the marketplace.  It’s truly shocking how much dirt comes off them!  And, soaking the beans overnight would make the process more successful.  However, when I make this dish, I opt for canned beans.  I go for convenience in my kitchen.  But, if you have to stick to the truly Liberian experience, boil those beans for an hour.

In a separate pot, if you have fresh meat, boil it up for thirty minutes.  I was instructed if the meat was dried, which is common for fish in Liberia, you may have to boil it forty-five minutes.  I’m not sure what kind of meat was in my dish.  I’m learning it sometimes is better not to ask.  Victoria highly recommended chicken, but I didn’t have any chicken on this occasion.  Whatever meat you choose, when it is ready, keep the water.

Mash your peppers in a mortar.  Then, over what may be your third coal pot with charcoal, fry up your peppers with the onion, tomato paste, Maggi cubes and salt. (Tomato paste comes in tiny cans in Liberia that hold three or four tablespoons.  The only bouillon cubes are made by Maggi.  Everyone calls them Maggi cubes.)  Mash up half of your beans into a mush and add that to the frying pan.  When you are satisfied that it is all fried up properly, and I have no guidance for you here, place all of your fried goods in a large pot.  Add three cups of the boiled meat broth, the meat and the non-mashed beans.  You want to continue boiling the soup until excess water goes away and the soup is a thick stew.

As always, serve the dish on individual plates over a small mountain of rice per person.

Copyright 1999 and 2016 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.