When my familiy and I first moved to rural Kenya we did not know what to expect—to say the very least. I had no idea that this Saskatchewan meat-loving girl would turn vegetarian overnight and not by free choice! When I left for Kenya I did not like beans or lentils, I am sorry to say. However, once I learned how to cook them, I had a tremendous fondness for them and realized that all my life I had missed out on the health benefits and beauty of this powerhouse food. (2/3 cup is 35% of your daily iron!)
We were generally served the best of the best when we visited friends in Kenya. That would be goat meat, beef (rarely), and chicken. However, in the poorer areas, people (often apologetically) served us beans or lentils with rice. Little did they know that these lentils had become our very favorite dish! How could you not love something they grew by hand on their own land with very few, if any, mechanized tools, shelled, dried and stored in their huts to feed their family and neighbours? Add to that the preparation process of adding freshly grated coconut with its milk, picked from the palm tree on the property.
I am reminded of the beauty of those days when our family eats "Pojo," the native dish made with mung (sometimes spelled Moong) beans. I now purchase them at the local Superstore but the flavour takes me back to my wonderful memories of Africa. Locally grown lentils can easily be substituted in this recipe!
(My family of six eat Pojo as a main dish. You may wish to half the recipe if you have a smaller family.)
2 cups mung (Moong) beans - (A very small green bean)
5 cups of water
Bring beans and water to a boil in a pot twice the size. Once boiling, turn down to simmer and leave on for 30 minutes or until beans are split open and tender. I generally do not drain the remaining liquid, if any.
1 can of coconut milk (you may also substitute plain yogurt)
1 or 2 tbsp of curry paste (to taste)
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup chopped onions (fried until translucent)
3 Tbsp Tomato Paste
Optional: 1 cup of cooked diced carrots and/or 1 cup diced tomatoes
Add above ingredients to cooked Pojo and Simmer uncovered over low heat for 10 minutes. Serve over rice (Basmati or Jasmine rice are my favorites with Pojo)
NOTE: If you do not like curry, you may simply use salt and pepper to taste. The coconut milk alone is also very flavourful.