from: Central Africa | cooking method: steaming
Koki (or Ekoki, Haricots Koki, Koki de Niébé, Gâteau de haricots, or Bean Cake) is popular all over Cameroon. It is made from cowpeas (niébé or black-eyed peas) or other beans (haricots). It is similar to the Moyin-Moyin of western Africa in that the beans are mashed into a paste which is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.
What you need
- two to four cups (one to two pounds) dry cowpeas (black-eyed peas), kidney beans, white beans, or similar
- one or two sweet peppers (red, green, or in between) and/or chile pepper, cleaned and finely chopped
- one cup palm oil
- banana leaves (or aluminum foil) and string
What you do
- Clean the black-eyed peas in water in a large pot. Cover them with boiling water and soak them for at least an hour or overnight. After soaking them, rub them together between your hands to remove the skins, if need be. Rinse to wash away the skins and any other debris. Drain them in a colander. If the beans have soaked only a short time, they may be cooked in water over a low heat until they are partially tender. (Modern adaptation: start with canned beans, drained and rinsed.)
- Crush, grind, or mash the black-eyed peas into a thick paste. Put the crushed beans in a large bowl. Slowly stir in enough water to make the paste smooth. Beat with a wire whisk or wooden spoon for a few minutes or more. It is important to incorporate small air bubbles into the paste.
- Heat the oil in a skillet for a few minutes, when warmed, add half the oil to the bean paste.
- Fry the chopped pepper in the remaining oil for a few minutes, then add pepper and oil to the bean paste. Add salt to taste and mix well.
- Warm the banana leaves for a half-minute in a hot oven, or on a grill, or in a pot of boiling water. This makes them easier to fold. Remove the center rib of each leaf by cutting across it with a knife and pulling it off. Cut the ends off each leaf to form a large rectangle. Fold the banana leaves to completely enclose the ingredients in a packet two or three layers thick. (Use something like the burrito folding technique. How many leaves and how much koki you are cooking will determine how many packets to make. Use oven-proof string to tie them closed.)
- Place sticks or a wire basket on the bottom of a large pot. (A stovetop steamer can be used.) Carefully stack the packets on the sticks, add enough water to steam-cook them (the water level should be below the packets). Cover tightly and boil for one to three hours. Cooking time depends on the size of the packet. The finished Koki should be cooked to the center, like a cake.
- Koki can be eaten hot or cold and is often served with boiled Yam or sweet potato.
To make the most authentic Koki, red palm oil is essential as it gives the beans the right flavor and color. In rural areas of Africa fresh palm nut sauce (similar to Moambé Sauce / Nyembwe Sauce) is often used instead of the refined red palm oil which is available in cities. Outside of Africa canned palm soup base, also called sauce graine or noix de palme can be found in speciality grocery stores and can be used in place of the red palm oil.
Koki can also be made from cocoyam (taro) tubers which are cleaned, peeled and grated and substituted for the beans. Crushed dried fish or shrimp are often added along with the red palm oil.
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