Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nyoyo/ Githeri/ Makande (red bean & corn vegetarian mix)


For the past two weeks, I've been down with a bad cold and all that comes with it-fever, loss of appetite etc. Needless to say, I haven't had the energy to do much. Not even cooking (which I love to do). When I started feeling better, I was craving this dish which I hadn't had since my high school days (boarding school)!  I had overdosed on chicken noodle soup and lemon-honey tea during my recent tiff with a cold. My appetite had returned and could only be quenched by a taste of "Nyoyo / Githeri".  If you're not Kenyan, you're probably wondering what this mystery dish is. This is a very basic comfort food comprising of beans and maize (corn) cooked together. Dry kidney beans (not canned) is what's best to use in this recipe. Traditionally, for the maize/corn, you can either shack fresh corn off the cobb or use dry corn. For this recipe, I opted to use frozen sweet corn as I couldn't get the white maize we use in Kenya to cook this recipe. Another point I should mention is that depending on what part of Kenya you're from, other ingredients are added. This could include anything from cubed potatoes and carrots (which is what I did in this recipe), raw groundnuts (peanuts) or even chopped cabbage. Since this is an easy, nutritious and cost-effective dish, it was a natural choice on many boarding school menus in Kenya. Yes, I did go to an all-girls' boarding school in Kenya. For those who were traumatized by the quality of Nyoyo/ Githeri that was served up to you in boarding schools across East Africa, this post is dedicated to you. This is not your dining hall Nyoyo/Githeri that was cooked in a hurry for a crowd of hungry students....this one is filled with flavor, is not a soupy mess and has a jazzed up look. I hope this recipe restores your appreciation for this simple, delicious and filling meal. Enjoy!

Serving Size: Feeds 6-8 comfortably.


-Dry red kidney beans, 1 pack (about 4 cups).

-2 cups maize/corn (I used frozen sweet corn. Feel free to use fresh corn off the cobb if you can get it).

-1 14Oz. Can peeled, diced tomatoes or 3 medium potatoes, cubed.

-3 medium carrots, peeled and cubed (optional).

-2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (optional).

-1 medium onion, diced.

-1 tablespoon curry powder.

-1 teaspoon ground cumin.

-1 teaspoon Royco Mchuzi mix spice mix (optional). Click on the following link to purchase this spice in my Amazon store (please beware that this is a small size Royco).: http://astore.amazon.com/stesmez-20/detail/B003AVDPRQ/181-9246484-3554322

-4 tablespoons chopped cilantro (coriander leaves).

-Salt to taste

-1 beef or chicken bullion cube (like Knorr or Maggi. This can be found in the Ethnic aisle of the grocery store near the Hispanic foods).

-3 cups of water or low-sodium chicken stock (I used chicken stock for more flavor).

-3 tablespoons chopped green onions (for garnish. This is optional).


-The night before you intend to cook this dish, place your beans onto a clean surface and pick out and discard any deformed beans or any dirt. Place your beans into a large bowl and rinse under tap water several times until the water runs clear. Pour enough water into the bowl and make sure the water reaches at least 2 inches above the surface of the beans as this is what you'll soak the beans in. Cover the bowl and soak the beans overnight at room temperature (I left mine on my countertop).

-The next day when you're ready to cook, pour out the soaking water and use a colander to rinse the beans several more times. You'll notice the beans will produce brownish water. Rinse them gently until the water runs clear. You'll also notice they're slightly larger than they were before you soaked them. Don't panic. They're supposed to look like that.

-Place the rinsed beans in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and pour enough water to rise at least 2 inches above the surface of the beans. If using dry corn/maize, now is the time to add them into the pot as they'll need more time to cook as opposed to fresh or frozen maize/corn. 

-Place a lid over the pan but make sure to leave it slightly cracked or the beans will boil over and spill on your stovetop. Turn the heat to medium and let the beans boil for about 40-45 minutes until if pressed between your thumb and index finger, the inside white part of the bean will pop out. The bean will be al dente (slightly undercooked). For this step, you can also use a pressure cooker and it'll take a considerably shorter time to cook (about 15 minutes). 

-If using fresh or frozen corn/maize now is the time to add them into the pot with the beans. Allow the mixture to simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes. 

-Using a colander, drain the corn/bean mixture, but do not rinse it out. Set aside.

-Using a large pot (you could use the same pot you boiled the corn/beans in), place 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. I used coconut oil. Add in the onions and cook until they begin to turn light golden brown. Stir as they cook so they don't burn.

-Add in the drained potatoes and carrots. Cook until the potatoes start looking transparent around the edges (see the image below).

-Add in the diced tomatoes and stir. Cover and cook on medium heat until the tomatoes begin to desintegrate. Stir occasionally.

-Add in the spices (curry powder, cumin and beef bullion). Stir to combine.

-Add the drained corn/maize and bean mixture to the pot. Using a kitchen towel or oven mitts, hold your pot on either side and carefully flip your pan to toss the corn/bean mixture with the spice and vegetable mixture. The purpose of doing this is to coat the corn/beans with the spices without using a spoon to reduce the risk of breaking your beans.

-Add the chicken stock or water into the pan. I use chicken stock because it adds so much flavor to the dish! Cover and allow the mixture to simmer on medium heat.

-Once the liquid in the pot starts to bubble, it's time to add in the Royco Mchuzi mix seasoning if you've opted to use it. In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon of the seasoning mix with 1 tablespoon of room-temperature water. Stir well to ensure that there are no lumps. Pour the mixture into the pot, cover and allow the food to bubble for 3-5 minutes.

-Sprinkle the chopped cilantro (coriander) into the pot.

-Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and allow the food to simmer for about 30-40 minutes until everything is cooked all the way through. The beans should not be al-dente at this point and should be cooked all the way through. If you're using dried corn/maize, that should also be cooked all the way through. If any one of the components in the pot is not quite done after this time frame, cover the pot and allow the food to cook for an additional 15-20 minutes (check for doneness often during this time) until they are all well cooked, but NOT mushy (especially the beans).

-Your dish is ready to serve. You can garnish the plated food with the chopped onions. Enjoy!

Serving Suggestions:

 Growing up, I used to make a "Nyoyo sandwich". I'd butter two slices of bread and fill them with some Nyoyo and enjoy that with some hot masala tea. I started doing that as a kid because my little jaws would get tired of chewing. This , however, continued even into my adulthood. Don't judge me!

This is an inexpensive, filling meal that will stick to your ribs long after you eat it.