Caribbean-style Kidney Beans & Veggies

When I was an art student in Manchester in the 1980’s, my good friend Mark used to cook from a small paperback called The Frugal Cookbook. In it there was a delicious recipe called Jamaican Stew Peas that was easy to make and one that I could never get enough of. It was a comforting combination of rice, beans, coconut, thyme, and black pepper – and one that didn’t weigh heavy on the student purse strings. This is an adaptation of the same said recipe but with leeks and sweet potatoes. Great for oryoki meals!


3 medium leeks, or 2 medium onions (300 g)
2 large or 3 medium sweet potatoes (400 g)
4 medium carrots (400 g)
2 cloves garlic
25 g (¼ cup) desiccated coconut
400 ml (1¾ cups) coconut milk
45 g (3 tablespoons) creamed coconut
180 ml (¾ cup) water
250 g (1½ cups) cooked & drained  kidney beans (about one can, or 125 g dried)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
Dash ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sambal (chili paste) or a whole chili pepper – Scotch Bonnet for those who like it hot
Salt to taste
Oil for frying


  • If using dried kidney beans, soak overnight. Drain, put in a pot and cover with fresh water. Either put in a pressure cooker and cover with 3 cm (2″) of water and cook bring to high pressure and cook for 10 minutes; or in a pot for 2 hours adding more water as needed to keep the beans covered while cooking. Drain when tender.
  • Trim the leeks, using only the pale green and white parts. Cut in quarters down the length then medium dice. Cover with fresh water.
  • Peel and medium-dice the sweet potatoes.
  • Peel and medium-dice the carrots.
  • Peel and mince the garlic.
  • Keep the chili pepper whole.

  • In a dry frying pan over a low flame, toast the desiccated coconut until it starts to blush. Set aside.
  • Drain the leeks and shake off the excess water. Put some oil into a frying pan over a medium flame and stir-fry the leeks, and whole chili if using. When the leeks are caramelized, add the garlic and thyme. Stir-fry for about one minute then transfer to a large pot.
  • Put the coconut milk, water, cooked kidney beans, and sambal if using, into the large pot with the vegetables. Bring to a boil over a medium-high flame. Turn the flame low and simmer for about twenty minutes or until the carrots are tender and the sweet potatoes are soft and start to loose their sharp edges. Stir now and then.
  • Next, add the desiccated coconut and the creamed coconut. Let the creamed coconut melt into the stew.
  • Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Remove the whole chili pepper.
  • Serve over Jasmine rice, accompanied by a green salad tossed with Lemon Oregano Dressing.

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