Frejon (Beans in Coconut Milk)
A simple dish of cooked beans puréed with coconut milk, frejon is an ode to the coastal city of Lagos and its rich cultural diversity. Typically served with a seafood stew, it is accompanied here by a vibrant, chunky tomato sauce laced with the heat of habanero, the richness of red palm oil and a hit of umami from dried crayfish, which is optional but highly recommended. A garnish of garri (coarsely ground and dehydrated cassava) adds some necessary texture; lime zest and bright green herbs lends freshness.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 2cups dried Nigerian honey beans or adzuki beans
- 10fresh thyme sprigs
- 1fresh bay leaf
- 1small yellow onion, peeled and halved
- Kosher salt
- ¾to 1 cup unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk
- 2tablespoons olive oil
- 1red bell pepper, quartered, seeded and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips
- 2garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- ½red habanero chile
- 1tablespoon dried crayfish powder or 2 tablespoons tiny dried shrimp (optional)
- 1(14-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes with their juices
- 1tablespoon red palm oil
- ¼cup fresh mint leaves
- ¼cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
- 2scallions, thinly sliced
- ½lime, zest removed in strips and julienned, plus lime wedges, for serving
- ¼cup garri (fermented coarse ground cassava), optional
Step 1Pick through the beans for rocks, bad grains or twigs. Transfer the beans to a large bowl and add cold water to cover by at least 2 inches. Allow to soak for 4 hours or up to 12 hours. Rinse the beans and transfer them to a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches.
Step 2Wrap the thyme, bay leaf and half the onion in a piece of cheesecloth and tie it with twine. Add to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low, partly cover with a lid and simmer until the beans are completely tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and allow beans to cool slightly in the cooking liquid. Discard the bouquet garni.
Step 3Strain the beans, discarding liquid, and transfer the beans to a food processor. Pour in 3/4 cup coconut milk and purée until smooth. Add more coconut milk for a smoother, thinner purée, if desired. Return the bean mixture to the pot, cover and keep warm on low heat, stirring occasionally to keep the bottom from scorching.
Step 4Thinly slice the remaining onion. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high. Add the sliced onion and bell pepper, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown around the edges, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, habanero and dried crayfish powder, if using, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juices, tearing the tomatoes into large chunks as you add them.
Step 5Add 1/4 cup water, bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is slightly reduced and flavors meld together, about 6 minutes. Stir in the red palm oil and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, discard the habanero, and season sauce to taste with salt.
Step 6Combine the mint, cilantro, scallions and lime zest in a small bowl. Divide the bean purée among bowls, top with a healthy spoonful of the chunky tomato sauce and garnish with the herb and lime zest mixture. Sprinkle the garri on top, if using, and serve with lime wedges.