Adapted from an old Kenyan recipe, Githeri features slow-cooked corn and beans, gently simmered in a fragrant and spicy coconut milk base
A few years ago, I had the privilege of spending the best part of 24 hours in Loitoktok, which lies about 200km south of Nairobi. I was on a due diligence visit, investigating the social impact of western investments in some communities. Loitoktok lies close to the border between Kenya and Tanzania, and until recently, acted as a thoroughfare for many tourists heading for Mount Kilimanjaro. In fact, on a good day, the summit of Kilimanjaro can be seen clearly, imposing and towering in all its glory.
Loitoktok is also interesting for other reasons – it lies in the heart of the Masai land, and a perfect place to experience the culture of the Maasai tribe. And what better venue to experience culture than at a market place? I was lucky enough to visit Loitoktok on a Tuesday, which happened to be the Kimana market day. The market is seen as a social event, where people from Kenya and Tanzania come together to buy food and clothes, and oh, what a real sense of community there is!.
One section of the market is for the buying and selling of livestock such as cows, goats and sheep, while the second section, which lies a little further up the road is for groceries, clothes and jewellery. There were also makeshift food stalls, selling different delicacies, one of which was Githeri – a Kenyan slow-cooked corn and beans recipe.
I soon learned this dish is a very popular dish in Kenya. The basic recipe will have sweet corn and beans boiled together and then fried in little oil to get a soft texture. A popular meal, served in boarding schools in Kenya, perhaps due to the cheap cost and high nutritional value of its ingredients, but as fellow writer Chef Raphael observes, in boarding school in Kenya, Githeri was as unimaginative and as boring as could be – probably down to how it was prepared.
This is an amazingly healthy dish, packed with protein and fibre from the beans and corn, and super easy to make. Best of all, beans and corn provide a cheap way of getting much-needed protein into your diet – so healthy in this case certainly does not mean expensive. And if you are adventurous as I am, you can afford to pimp this dish up as much or as little as you like. But of course, pimping reduces your authenticity rating…#justsaying!
Authentic Githeri starts with farm fresh corn and beans which are boiled till soft, then other ingredients added. I used fresh corn and for the beans, you can use black-eyed beans, kidney beans, butter beans…any kind of beans. Feel free to substitute as your pantry or taste buds dictate. I used canned kidney beans for this recipe and it turned out finger-licking good! Next time, my beans of choice will be black-eyed peas in order to use up the 1kg bag of black-eyed peas I have recently received.
I cooked my corn and beans in tomato sauce and coconut milk, and added a mixture of African spices and shrimps to pimp it up and 45 minutes later, I had a most flavoursome, protein-rich meal staring back at me. You can leave out the shrimps to make this a truly vegetarian meal, of-course! I served my Githeri with a side of cherry tomatoes and avocado slices, and added a garnish of curly-leaf parsley because I couldn’t help myself. One thing’s for sure – I will be making this dish again
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