nutritious and fillingMuch of the African cuisine is not fully discovered as yet by the rest of the world. Though Kenya falls in the Savannah region, many parts of the country grow a rich variety of fruits and vegetables that provide the people of the area with their basic requirements of carbohydrates, proteins and minerals. Colonization by the British Empire and the influx of Indians and Arabs has added variety to the basic dishes prepared in many parts of Kenya. The coast is well known for using coconut milk in most of their dishes, the highlands use lots of potatoes and areas around Lake Victoria use a lot of fish and cassava. Over the years traditional methods and recipes have given way to new versions and more palatable ones for the younger generation. One such dish prepared mostly by the Kikuyus, called Irio has over the years developed its own version, depending on the region and culture.Traditonal irio is prepared by mixing cooked red beans, maize and mashed potatoes. Sometimes kale is added. Kikuyus were basically farmers and grew sweet potatoes, potatoes, beans, vegetables, maize etc. New harvest meant that some of these vegetables and beans were combined to prepare a basic but very nutritious dish called irio. During the dry season, dried beans and maize were added to the mashed potatoes. Irio is prepared as a meal on its own or as an accompaniment to a meat dish. On special occasions, boiled sweet potato, boiled green bananas, pumpkin leaves, peas, carrots or many other vegetables are added to make it into a dish literally fit for a king.
Nowadays frozen or canned beans, maize, pigeon peas, peas etc are available easily in the market making irio one of the quickest and easiest dish to prepare. The first time I tasted irio was when I was studying at St. Mary's, Nairobi. Many of my classmates were Kikuyus and its during one of the invitations to their home for lunch that introduced me to irio. I loved the freshness and was amazed that in spite of not having any spices except salt, the dish tasted so delicious. It was the flavour of each ingredient that added the goodness to the dish.
My kaki makes irio quite often and obviously its an indianized version. Even when Julius makes it for us sometimes, he adds garlic, a bit of chilli etc. I made this wholesome dish for lunch and I don't think I will need any dinner.So coming to the recipe, I added measurement to kaki's basic recipe and a few more vegetables. Add what you like, there are no fixed rules.
500 g cassava (mogo)
4 medium potatoes
1½ cups boiled red kidney beans (rajma)
1 cup boiled pigeon peas (tuvar) (either the fresh one or the dried one)
1 cup boiled white maize kernels
3 cups chopped spinach
1 cup sliced onion
2 tbsp garlic paste
1½ to 2 tsp salt
½ cup water
2 tbsp oil or butter
For topping (optional):
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup oil
¼ tsp salt
1-2 tsp red chilli powder
- Peel the cassava and cut it into chunks. Boil it till its done. I prefer to use a pressure cooker. 3 whistles over medium heat and its done.
- Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks. Boil or steam it till it is done.
- Melt butter in a pan or heat the oil up.
- Stir fry the onions till they are slightly soft and not overcooked.
- Add garlic and stir fry for a bit. Add potatoes and cassava and mash it up a bit.
- Add rest of the boiled vegetables and salt according to taste.
- Add water and mix.
- Just before serving add spinach and mix well.
- Mix the ingredients for the topping.
- Serve irio drizzled with the topping or on its own.
- Add peas, carrots if you wish.
- If you are using canned beans, drain out the water and wash with fresh water before adding to the cassava and potatoes.
- Add a bit of boiled sweet potato.
- Add pumpkin instead of cassava.
- If you use kale instead of spinach, then steam it a bit before adding to the dish.
- Adding boiled green bananas gives this dish a different taste.
- If you are using dried beans, then you need to soak them overnight in warm water and then cook them.
You may want to check out the following:
|cassava in coconut milk|
|crispy kale salad|
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