Njahî, also known as hyacinth beans or dolichos beans are a staple where I come from (Central Kenya). They are quite nutrient dense, rich in iron and other minerals that make it a beloved food in my culture; especially for breastfeeding mums as they are believed to encourage lactation.
They are usually soaked, boiled then mashed with steamed green bananas, both unripe and ripe. Very sweet when had with stew and vegetables on the side. One can also have them stewed. I like them with lots of grated carrots or curried with some coconut cream. Very delicious and filling.
These beans are not easily available in Uganda, but my MIL (Bless her), ensured I had enough stock when we came back after visiting home. So look out for some more njahi recipes coming soon.
Let us start with these veggie balls using this bean. It is easy to make, uses what you have on hand, and so delicious. Perfect for lunch, dinner or the kids’ snack boxes.
We had them on simple wraps with a garlic yoghurt sauce, and some vegetable accompaniments.
Ingredients for the veggie balls are:-
- About 3 cups njahi, already boiled and roughly mashed.
- 1 1/2 cup of minced vegetables. ( I used onion, garlic, bell peppers(green, red and yellow), coriander and mint).
- Spices used: 1 tsp garam masala, I tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp turmeric, I tbsp toasted cumin seeds.
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- 2 tbsp breadcrumbs.
- 2 tbsp grated cheddar cheese (optional).
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil.
These type of beans take long to cook, an average of 3 hours on the stovetop. So I soaked then cooked them on the instant pot to cut on cooking time. (Bean function in high pressure- 30 minutes, then let them release pressure naturally).
Once the beans are ready, drain, let cool then roughly mash. Add in the minced veggies, spices, herbal salt and bread crumbs. Last goes in the cheese and form into balls.
Put them in a lined baking sheet, spray with the oil and bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes.
As the beans cook you can get started on the accompaniments. The whole wheat wraps are quite easy to make. 2 cups atta flour, I cup water, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp mixed herbs, salt and pepper. Knead well into a soft dough. Cover and let rest for about 20 minutes, then roll out and cook on a dry pan with no added oil.
Keep the flatbread covered with a clean cotton cloth so they do not dry out.
As for the garlic yoghurt sauce, I used one cup unflavoured yoghurt, 2 heaped tbsp mayonnaise, 1 tsp paprika, one minced garlic clove, freshly ground pepper and freshly squeezed juice from half a lemon.
Mix all well and let chill for flavours to blend well.
The vegetable accompaniments were a simple kachumbari and a simple shredded cabbage and carrot salad seasoned with salt, lemon and black pepper.
Once everything is ready, you can assemble and serve. You can opt to have the balls on a bed of the cabbage salad then topped with the salsa / kachumbari and yoghurt sauce,
or on the wrap as shown below.
Either way, they are delicious and filling. The balls hold their shape well after baking and a bit crispy on the outside but soft and moist on the inside. The seasoning is everything in this dish. The minced veggies go well together with the spices used and also add colour, moisture and nutrients to the dish.
How would you like to have yours, in a wrap or just plain with the salad?
I like veggie balls as they are great way to ensure you load up on your veggies in a fun and tasty way. It is all about getting creative. I have already shared how I made lentil balls in peanut sauce here, and also here on couscous with a creamy cashew sauce. Try them all and let me know what you think.