Vegetarianism and being African seems to be something that invokes quite a reaction from both Africans and non Africans alike. A quick Twitter search revealed it is not uncommon to receive jokes and remarks such as:
“#YouNotAfricanIf you’re a vegetarian..ah ah the way we love meat, you would starve in an African House”,
“I’m too African to be a vegetarian” or
“It’s so hard to be a vegetarian in an African household”
Why do people feel so strongly about this subject? After all, we are only talking about food, aren’t we? African or non African, I must admit it is difficult being the sole vegetarian in any household, especially if the vegetarian is still responsible for the preparation of non vegetarian meals.
I would say that the first time I met an African vegetarian was about 7 years ago. My in laws were visiting and a friend who lived near where we lived came over for dinner. My culinary skills at the time would not have been quite what they are today but knowing me, my most likely go-to dish would have been jollof rice and roast lemon chicken. When the guest arrived and it was time to serve, I was met with the declaration that she was in fact a vegetarian.
I thought to myself that perhaps she did not think it would be a dinner get together, so had arrived not expecting any dinner at all. On the other hand, had she expected dinner, it would have been, at the very least, courteous to advise the hostess of this pertinent dietary requirement. Although there are a myriad of dishes one could serve as vegetarian options, such as salads or suku mawiki, on their own, one cannot necessarily call them balanced meals. At that point in time, I do not believe I had ever cooked anything which truly qualified as a vegetarian meal. Furthermore, I was just not a fan of beans, so it is nothing short of a miracle that I happened to have a can of red kidney beans. So here is what I did.
I made a buttery bean currry
Ghee or butter
1 tbsp curry powder
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp freshly grated ginger or the lazy type
2 fresh large tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans, including brine
1. Finely chop the onion, garlic and ginger and tomatoes.
2. Heat ghee in a pan, add the curry powder to release flavours.
3. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry for approximately 2 minutes. Add the chopped tomato and allow to fry and reduce to a sauce.
4. After 5 to 7 minutes, add the can of beans, including brine.
5. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Check seasoning, then serve.
Option: Give this a good West African heat rush by adding a whole or chopped scotch bonnet pepper and some delicately roasted aubergines as pictured.
I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the result. This would have been as ordinary a dish as any, however the butter gave that dish the creamy lift it needed in order to make it as delightful and lip smacking as it was.
If you had a surprise vegetarian for dinner, what would you do?
Get more vegetarian ideas on my Vegan African Tumblr.