Somedays I think our refrigerator could be mistaken for the refrigerator in a bachelor’s apartment, the smaller-than-average frame containing little more than beverages, condiments and a half loaf of bread purchased at the 7/11 next door. In reality though, I know it’s sparse because of the way we shop. I almost exclusively buy fruits and vegetables from the open air market down the road, and when I do, I buy what’s available. While I definitely miss the days of stocking up on Berkeley Bowl favorites, in this season of life, if my vegetable selling friend only has two carrots, then I only get two carrots. If her tomatoes are looking less pink and more white (?!), then maybe we don’t have tomatoes for a few days.
On days with a particularly limited pantry, there’s a dish that I often gravitate towards. The first time Burke had it, he loved it. I’ll admit, it’s a bit homely, but it’s special nonetheless. We call it “Uganda Beans,” in fact, I think that’s the official name of the dish. I learned it from the women at the transition house, all of whom have been incredible cooks.
Here’s what you need:
- Half a bag of kidney beans
- Quarter cup of butter or vegetable oil
- A bullion cube (we use mushroom)
- Two carrots
- One red onion
- One tomato
- Five cloves of garlic
Okay, see that list? You can add or subtract anywhere from one to five of each of the ingredients and it’ll still make Uganda beans, so don’t stress if your amounts aren’t quite right.
To make the beans, add the dry kidney beans to a pot with a ton of extra water. Boil on high for five to ten minutes and turn off the heat. Let the beans get soft in that water for about an hour, then drain the beans. Replenish water so that the beans are fully submerged plus about an inch of water over the top. Add a bullion cube or two as well as the oil/butter. Adding butter creates a sort of gravy, one that I can live without so I skip the butter/oil altogether, but you should probably go ahead and put it in. Bring beans back to a low boil on medium heat.
While beans are simmering, roughly chop the carrots, onion and garlic. Throw those guys in the pot. If you don’t like mushy carrots, maybe wait a few minutes before putting them in. I love carrots in all forms, so bring on the smush. Once the hard vegetables have a gotten about a ten minute head start, add in the chopped tomato. Keep boiling until the beans are very soft, adding water as needed.
There you have it, Uganda Beans! The ladies at the house love to cook and to talk about food, so if you attempt this recipe, please imagine them joining you in your kitchen laughing alongside you as you learn a new recipe.