Frejon (Beans in Coconut Milk)

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.
  • Total:
  • Serves: 4 persons



  1. Step 1

    Pick 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.
  2. Step 2

    Wrap 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.
  3. Step 3

    Strain 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.
  4. Step 4

    Thinly 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.
  5. Step 5

    Add 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.
  6. Step 6

    Combine 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.