At the guesthouse we serve both Haitian and American cuisine. Our cook, Marjory, is extremely talented, and people are always asking for her recipes! I have decided that once per week I will spend the day in the kitchen with her to learn her secrets. Haitian cooking is not a quick, four-step, three-ingredient job. So reserve a good block of time, put your apron on, and enjoy the process. Haitian legumes is probably the most difficult Haitian recipe to tackle, but I know you can do it!
We’ve been here about 15 months now, and I’ve asked many Haitians what their favorite food is. Almost every time, they respond by saying that it is Haitian legumes. Legumes mean vegetables in this case. Many Americans say that it reminds them of the taste of beef stew. It may not look too appealing, but trust me, it’s delicious!
- 27 Militon (Chayote squash)
- 18 Eggplant
- 7 large carrots
- 2 bunches of cabbage
- 3 Large bunches watercress
- Parsley, small bunch
- 1 green pepper
- 1 bunch green onions
- Head of Garlic
- 3 lbs. Beef (round steak)
- 3 Limes/lemons/Haitian sour oranges
- Vegetable oil
- Tomato paste
- Chicken bouillon cube (Maggi)
- White rice
*This quantity feeds an army of about 30 people. You can trim the recipe down for however many hungry mouths you have to feed.
Step 1: Prepare Vegetables
Rinse all vegetables to clean.
Peel carrots. Chop off top.
Peel chayote. Cut each chayote into fourths – down the center the long way. It has a “heart” in the center of each one, so cut that out with a knife after quartering it.
Peel eggplant. Cut each eggplant into fourths – down the center the long way.
Remove outer leaves and core of cabbage. Cut into large chunks.
Roughly chop watercress, removing any bad leaves.
Step 2: “Boil” Vegetables
In a large pot, heat a little vegetable oil, about 2 tablespoons tomato paste, a little salt, a little water, and a crushed chicken bouillon cube. Stir.
In this order, put chayote, eggplant, carrot, watercress, and cabbage into the large pot. (You will need two pots if you’re making a lot.) Turn on heat to medium/high and cover. Leave on for about 1 hr. and 15 min. You will not need to stir this, as your pot will be too full to do that. It will create its own water, so do not add any during this process.
Step 3: Make Marinade
If you have a mortar and pestle, that is perfect for this next step. If you don’t, get one soon. 🙂 In the meantime, you can use a small bowl and something to smash these ingredients. Put parsley, hot pepper, green onions, and all garlic into mortar/bowl and smash away. Do this until it becomes a wet paste. *Marjory tells me not to use a food processor or chopper for this step. It will not be as flavorful.
Step 4: Prepare the Beef
Cut limes in half. Squeeze juice into separate bowl and remove seeds. Set juice aside.
Trim fat off beef and discard. Cut remaining beef into small chunks.
In a large bowl, but a few tablespoons vinegar, about 1 tsp. salt, limes, and beef. Stir and clean beef with limes. *You can use chicken or goat 🙂 instead of beef.
Fill a large pot with water and heat – not quite to boiling. Put beef in water for 1 minute. Remove beef. Discard water.
Return beef to same pot. Add previously prepared marinade, juice from limes, a few tablespoons butter, and a few tablespoons vegetable oil. Turn on stove to medium/high and let cook until soft, stirring occasionally. This may take 30 – 60 minutes.
Step 5: Back to the Vegetables
By now they should be done cooking, and be nice and soft. Drain all water from pot.
Slice carrots into relatively thin slices.
In large pot, mash all the rest of the veggies with pestle until they are pretty mushy. This will take some elbow-grease and sweat. Add them little by little to the pot to accomplish this task.
This device will work as well to mush them up. Not sure what it’s called, but apparently every Haitian owns one.
Step 6: Put it all Together
Go back to the pot where the meat is. Add a few large spoonful’s of tomato paste and a little water to the meat. Stir.
Add all cooked legumes to the meat. Also add about ½ to 1 cup of vegetable oil and a few tablespoons of butter to the pot. Stir well.
Chop 1 green pepper and throw that into the pot as well.
Turn heat to medium-high and boil everything for about an hour – uncovered. In doing this, you are trying to get all the excess water to evaporate from the pot. Stir about every 10 – 15 minutes to prevent it from burning/sticking to the bottom.
Step 7: Prepare the White Rice
While you’re waiting for the vegetables, you can prepare the white rice. Feel free to make it however you usually do, but here’s how Marjory makes it:
In a large pot, pour about ½ cup vegetable oil. Throw in 1 green onion and some salt to taste. Turn stove to high and heat this up.
Then add water. (Marjory never measures, but she added enough to fill the pot about ½ to 2/3 full.) Cover and heat this to boiling.
Discard green onion. Rinse about 10 cups of uncooked rice and add to pot. Stir and cover. Let cook until water is absorbed and rice is soft. If water starts boiling out of pot, uncover and stir again. Recover after it calms down.
Step 8: Enjoy!
Put some rice on your plate and then the legumes on top of that. Sit down with family or friends and enjoy this delicious meal!