With the cooler, drier air of autumn coming upon us, we are coming to that time of year when a good stew on the stove can be a very welcoming and satisfying meal. One of my daughter’s favorite dishes is an African stew called githeri (pronounced ghi-DHE-ri, I am told). She discovered it at The Golden Temple Natural Grocery and Cafe on Birmingham’s Southside I had never tried it, so one day I asked the young fellow behind the counter at The Golden Temple about it. He told me that it was no longer on the menu, but that the basic ingredients they used were garbanzo beans, onions, and potatoes in a tomato base. With that bit of information, I set out to figure out how to make it myself.
Searching online, I learned that githeri is a traditional African stew from Kenya whose primary ingredients are usually maize and beans. I was determined to make it as much like the dish my daughter had enjoyed, so I perused a few different recipes online. I did find a version that used garbanzo beans and potatoes, but for the seasoning, I decided to look to a recipe that used maize (corn) and kidney beans. I used the ingredients that my friend at the Golden Temple Restaurant told me about, but I also added corn since that seemed to be a usual ingredient in Kenyan githeri. The recipe met with my daughter’s approval. She mentioned, however, that carrots would probably go well in the dish, so the next time I made it, I added carrots. Both times I had a delicious hearty stew!
What follows is the stew that I arrived at by picking ideas and ingredients from a few different recipes found online. Since this is a stew, you don’t necessarily have to follow the measurements exactly. For example, the spices (cumin, turmeric, and cayenne pepper) are probably shown at a minimal amount for the large amount of stew I ended up with. Even though we liked the final outcome, you may want to add a little more depending upon your taste.
- New potatoes (1½ pounds)
- Fresh Tomatoes (2½ to 3 pounds)
- 2 cups dried garbanzo beans (chick peas)
- 1 large onion
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 3 or 4 carrots
- 8 oz. fresh frozen shelled corn
- ½ tsp cumin
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 clove of garlic, pressed (optional)
- Salt to taste
Soak the garbanzo beans overnight. Pour off the water they soaked in, then in a large boiler, place the beans and enough water to cover at least two inches above the beans (I apologize, I didn’t measure out the water when I was experimenting with this recipe). The beans will take the longest to cook, so go ahead and bring the water to a boil, then turn the burner down to simmer, covered, for a couple of hours – adding water if necessary. You can add the frozen shelled corn after an hour to let it cook with the beans.
Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients. Wash the new potatoes cut them into chunks. If the potatoes are very small, I just slice them in half, if I come across a larger one, I’ll quarter it. Dice the onion. Dice the fresh tomatoes and have them ready to go in a separate container. [Note: I don’t actually “dice the tomatoes and onions – I chop them up in to manageable chunks – but use whatever technique you are accustomed to].
In a large stew pot heat the olive oil over medium heat then add the diced onion, sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions are glazed. Add the cumin, turmeric, and cayenne pepper, simmering and stirring for about two minutes. I choose not to use garlic, but you may also wish to add garlic to the mix. Next, add the diced tomatoes, stir and cover the pot, letting the mixture simmer for about five minutes.
When the beans and corn are cooked, the water will have probably cooked down. Spoon out the beans and corn into the stew pot. Add sliced carrots diced potatoes and let the whole thing simmer until the potatoes and carrots are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add a little more of the cumin, turmeric, and cayenne if you desire, according to your taste. If it gets too dry and sticks to the bottom of the pot, add a little water. Some may choose to add a cup of chicken stock, but I kept the recipe vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
Of course, since this is a stew, there is lots of leeway as to how to put it together and what ingredients to add. The first time I made it, instead of cooking the beans and corn in a separate pot, I put them into the stew pot with the tomatoes after sautéing the onions and spices, adding water when necessary, letting it all simmer for a an hour or so. Then I added the potatoes and let it all cook until the potatoes were tender. However you put it all together, I can highly recommend githeri to you and your household for a hearty autumn dish.
Here are two other recipes online that you may want to examine: