I have been in many conversations with friends and family, where we say if only boys were raised as difficult as girls are in our society. From birth, your role is already stamped and mapped out for you. Even if you were born with a twin brother, your upbringing is different. Traditionally we are raised to be homemakers from day one and many of the tasks we are taught to do, you must go through the path of resistance, so that you are seen as a ‘good wife’ to your husband and in-laws. Any attempt to take a short cut or use modern appliances is scoffed at and seen as lazy. I remember my mother screaming “don’t let them send you back home to your parents saying I did not raise you well”. There were many of such inane tasks like hand washing clothes, grinding beans/pepper with a grinding stone, which thankfully my father put his foot down and said my sister and I will never need it, sweeping the floor with a broom, pounding yam etc
Even when I put up the shortcut to making pounded yam in a food processor, I had a couple of women tell me vehemently that it is not and cannot be the same thing as the manual version. They closed their mind to the idea, and were not willing to try. If a man said that to me, I won’t even be bothered, but coming from a fellow woman who still wants us to be stuck in the 1900’s despite the fact that women are now pulling their weight financially in the home and in the sphere of business. Mental Slavery I call it.
Peeling beans is another task that I count as drudgery. It drives me up the wall, and many tense Saturday mornings arose between my mother and I over this. I wondered hundreds of times while grumbling under my breath if there was a shortcut to this process or why couldn’t we simply blend the beans with the skin on. You don’t want to know my mother’s response to that ‘impertinent question’ (her words). The only consolation was that her Moin Moin and Akara made you forget the fact that you spent upwards of an hour peeling the ‘stupid beans’ (my words). Moin Moin, Akara, Gbegiri and Ekuru show up from my kitchen a handful of times a year for this reason.
I tried to take a shortcut with using already peeled dried beans and this time, I did not agree with that ‘shortcut’ because the taste was not the same. Well people, there is a shortcut using real beans. I was given this tip by my readers and from members of the Facebook group So You Think You Can Cook. I did not believe it at first, but I tried it out and was super impressed. I called my mum to taunt her, but alas MTN denied me of the joy of gloating. I wanted to say, I knew it, all those hours peeling beans was for nothing. I can do it in a blender in a fraction of the time.
In case you are wondering what Ekuru is, in the culinary world, it will be called Deconstructed Moin Moin. It is similar to Moin Moin, just that all the other ingredients blended with the beans is taken out and fried in a sauce while the beans is blended and steamed on its own.
You will need
1 1/2 cups of beans – i used honey beans
Half a cube of Potash – also called kaun or akaun
For the sauce you will need
1 piece of tomato
1 piece of tatashe – red bell pepper
1 piece of ata rodo – scotch bonnet/habanero pepper
1 red onion
1 tablespoon of crayfish
a few pieces of smoked prawn
1/2 cup of water/beef stock
Pour the beans into a bowl and add cold water. Let it soak for up to 5 minutes maximum, and ensure that you drain out all the water to prevent the beans from soaking further. Scoop the beans in your hands and add to a blender. Press the pulse button on the blender and watch as the skin peels off. It is expected that some of the beans will break or be crushed, this is why the beans should not soak for more than 5 minutes, otherwise it will become too soft and be crushed more.
If you don’t have the pulse button, if for example you only have the on and off button on your blender, switch it on for a few seconds at a time. Don’t do it longer than 5 seconds.Again, it is expected for some of the beans to break or even crushed to tiny bits. All will depend on how long you soaked the beans for.
Once you have exhausted the soaked beans, add enough cold water to allow the skins to float to the top. Decant and repeat the process again, until the beans are free of skins. You can be a little OCD about your skins, but if you have a few left in, it won’t hurt the colour of the paste.
I added this picture to show that some of the beans will not be peeled completely, but the amount is very small relative to the whole. The picture below shows the bits that did not peel completely and you can see that it is negligible. This entire process of peeling took less than a quarter of the time doing it manually. The majority of the time was spent in rinsing out the skins.
Blend the peeled beans with water to a very smooth paste. Touch at intervals to ensure that it is creamy smooth. The density of the paste should not be thick or watery. Now, tradition says that you must whip air into the paste till it almost doubles in volume to get a fluffy result. You do this for Akara and Moin Moin and even more for Ekuru because it should not be as dense as Moin Moin.
By this time, I would have gotten out the wooden spoon and turned the mixture in circular motions till my arms hurt (old school). No more. Another tip from So You Think You Can Cook, thanks to Omolabake Matthews. Pour the paste into a food processor, attach the whisk and Voila. Zero effort. You can do this in a mixer too.
Sprinkle in the kaun and whip some more until you see big bubbles, and the paste is light and fluffy. This took about 20 minutes
This recipe is about defying convention. Traditionally Ekuru like Moin Moin is steamed using banana leaves, and this I also consider tasking. Tasking with benefits because of the added flavour of the leaves, but now that I live where these leaves are difficult to source, I ask myself sometimes what the use behind all that gruelling tutelage was for, if I am not using it now. I came up with the idea to use Muffin cases to give Ekuru a different but modern twist.
Bake in the oven at 150 degrees (centigrade) for 15 – 18 minutes. Because of all the air that has been whipped into the paste, it will rise nicely in the oven like a Muffin. This air will also collapse a little, shortly after it is out of the oven, so while it is baking, crack on the sauce, so both foods get ready right about the same time.
Ekuru is eaten with a delicious stew, which makes up for the fact that no seasoning was added to the paste. All the flavour you need comes from the stew. This process should span the entire time of baking. Ensure that you have everything prepped and ready to go before the muffins enter the oven.
Chop onions and saute for a few minutes till it softens. Add the red smoked prawns and let it fry with the onions, releasing a delicious smokey and sweet aroma. Add the blended pepper (which should have already been boiled to dry out its water content) and fry for a few minutes to thicken it. Then add about 1 – 2 tablespoons of palm oil for extra flavour and continue frying.
As the pepper thickens, sprinkle in the ground crayfish, a little water or beef stock and fry till you have a really thick stew. Much thicker than the traditional stew you will serve with rice for example. This is what the Yorubas call ‘Ata din din’.
Right about the 15 – 18 minute mark, the muffins should be cooked with a light brown crust. Stick in a toothpick/cocktail stick into each muffin, it should come out clean. Turn off the oven and test one. Steaming ensures that moisture is locked in, so your muffin may not be as moist as using the leaves, but it should be very close to it, so ensure you don’t bake it for too long.
You can choose to serve it alongside the stew in a separate plate, or make the extra effort to core the centre with a thin serrated knife and fill with the ‘ata din din’ to create a cupcake effect.
Pretty and overall effortless. No slaving over the beans for ages, no getting frustrated wrapping the leaves. This is good food on easy street. Express cooking, in the words of Nigella Lawson. If you haven’t been eating Moin Moin, Akara, Ekuru or Gbegiri because of the drudgery of peeling beans, now you know the easy way out. Please, please, teach your sons and daughters to do the same too.
Now imagine eating your Ekuru Muffin for breakfast with a hot cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate whilst having a lazy Saturday morning reading a book or watching TV. Ekuru can also be eaten for lunch or dinner. It is a light meal option, even weight watchers will agree with.
More on re-imagining the use of bean paste, I was inspired by the comments on Ola Orekunrin’s Post – The Flying, Doctor, Sex, Drugs and Davido HERE. This picture below is dedicated to the BN reader who left this comment under the name TA. “Yeah,and the day someone comes up with a healthier technique for deep frying Akara,I shall personally nominate the person for Noble prize in Science. He!he!h! “. You had me obsessed about the idea for weeks, till my creative juices came up with this. It was fried with less than 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil. Thank you in advance for my Nobel Prize in Science nomination.
Presenting my Akara topped with ata din din which was modified to create Ewa Aganyin Sauce. It tastes the same as the deep fried version – yes, I compared. It has even more crunch at the edges. The recipe is on my blog.
Dunni Obata is an IT Project Manager by day and a cook the rest of the time. She loves entertainment and one of her bad habits is feeding people. When she’s not cooking, she’s watching the Food Network. Dunni is very passionate about Nigerian food and believes it has a lot to offer globally. Visit her blog – www.dooneyskitchen.com