This post, and recipe for beans and rice is sponsored by Purolator Tackle Hunger. We were compensated for our time, and all opinions in this post are our own.
How wonderful is it when the stars align? That’s exactly what happened when we were asked to participate in the Purolator Tackle Hunger game day food drive, which partners with the Canadian Football League to help raise hunger awareness and collect non-perishable food items and cash donations for food banks across the country. Since its beginning in 2003 the Purolator Tackle Hunger® program has helped deliver the equivalent of more than 13 million pounds of food to food banks across Canada.
Now in its 17th year, we were invited to participate in the Montreal event, where the Montreal Alouettes dedicated a game to this great cause and fans were encouraged to contribute, in any way they could. Everyone who donated not only got to support Moisson Montreal, currently the largest Canadian food bank, but also had the chance to take a photo with the Grey Cup (which the Alouettes have won 7 times). This was especially wonderful because although summer is glorious for many reasons, donations to food banks tend to be lower during the summer months, yet the needs remain high. For Moisson Montreal, which serves 250 local community organizations on a regular basis, which in turn, fulfill more than 640,000 requests for food assistance each month, the Purolator Tackle Hunger game day food drive was a true gift. How blessed we felt to share in the commitment to making a difference in our community.
Our job? To help spread the word about this wonderful initiative and to reinforce the message that healthy eating should be available and accessible to all. We were tasked with developing a recipe using inexpensive food bank staples, to demonstrate how humble, simple ingredients could come together to feed a family deliciously and nutritiously. We were definitely up to the task.
Growing up in a Greek household, with parents who immigrated to Canada with very little, we were raised on simple fare. Despite this, we never felt deprived. On the contrary, the food we grew up with, much of which was vegetarian or vegan, was full of flavour. Childhood friends were always finding excuses to eat at our home, quietly uttering “I’m a little hungry” within our mom’s earshot, knowing full well that a plate of food would miraculously and almost immediately appear.
This appreciation of home-cooking, of eating within your means, of stretching every dollar helped reinforce the fact that we were well set for this assignment. Oh, and of course, there was the football. One of us loves football, and is married to a man who loves it even more (in case you think that’s an exaggeration, daughter #1’s middle name is Montana…and she’s not named after the state). And so, when we learned that we would also have the opportunity to attend an Alouettes practice and speak with Henoc Muamba, their spokesperson for the Purolator Tackle Hunger campaign, we were thrilled.
Henoc Muamba, #10 Linebacker for the Montreal Alouettes has been the Alouettes Purolator Tackle Hunger champion for two years now and we got to chat with him about food, rallying for a great cause, and family. Born in the Congo, Henoc’s family immigrated to Canada when he was a young boy and he grew up eating simple, hearty and traditional meals. He shared that as a child he was sometimes envious of his friends who would often eat out in restaurants; in his family, meals were eaten at home, and food was cooked by his mother, with care and love. And so, lessons were learned without him even realizing it at the time; that good, nutritious food can be made at home for a fraction of the cost of eating out. And Henoc has carried this lesson with him, into his own family with his wife and young daughter, and in his commitment to helping end hunger in his community; we’re quite sure that his mom is proud.
On July 20th, Alouettes’ fans did not disappoint; a total of 12, 875 pounds of food was collected. We were excited to be there not only to see a great game but to be witness to the generosity and community of those around us. As we dropped our own goods into the donation box we saw glimpses of others’ contributions; beans, pastas, peanut butters, flours, and so many other items which we envisioned making their way into the homes of people in need. And because we love cooking, we began to imagine all the great meals which could be made with these simple ingredients.
Given that we love to explore various ethnic cuisines, when we met with Henoc we asked him to share some of the traditional Congolese meals that he grew up with. He spoke about pondu, a staple made of cassava leaves which is so loved that it seems to be served at every special gathering as well as for regular weekday meals. Henoc also spoke about beans and rice, a staple of so many cuisines, with so many variations. His mom made her beans and rice with a bit of heat and spice, and served it often with, you guessed it, pondu. We knew then that we would be sharing our version of this traditional meal (minus the pondu), inspired by Henoc, his Congolese heritage and hopefully great enough to please his mom.
Given the context within which this recipe was created, we thought it would be a good idea to cost it out. Keeping in mind that we live in a large city, with easy availability to several grocery stores and markets, we were able to create this recipe, which feeds 4 people (or 3 very generously) for a grand total of $5.25 (Canadian dollars). That’s not even $2 a person! You can bet that these beans and rice are going to be on regular rotation in our homes.
We used dry beans in this recipe, but you can certainly used canned red kidney beans if that is what you have on hand. We do recommend dry beans however; they are less expensive, their texture tends to be more pleasant, there is no added salt, and they are super easy to prepare. We like to soak and boil more beans than we need in any given recipe and then freeze the rest to be used another day.
The amount of chili pepper flakes used in this recipe makes beans and rice which have some heat, but not too much. You can, of course, adjust to your own liking.
- 1 1/2 cups dry red kidney beans or 3 cups canned red kidney beans
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup chopped red onion
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3/4 tsp chili flakes
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup long grain rice
- 2 1/4 - 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Preparing your dry beans
- Sort through your dry red kidney beans, discarding any beans which are shriveled or broken. Rinse and soak in a bowl of cold water for 12 hours or overnight. Be sure to use enough water so that there is at least 2 inches of water above the surface of the beans.
- After the hours of soaking, drain your beans. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the beans and keep at a rapid boil for 15 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot and cook for an additional 45 - 60 minutes until the beans are uniformly tender and easy to bite through. You should periodically check your pot to be sure that there is still enough water.
- When your beans are cooked, drain them. You will need 3 cups of cooked beans for this recipe. If you end up with a little less or a little more, don't worry; simply use what you have.
For the rice and beans
- In a large pot heat the vegetable oil over medium low heat and add the chopped red onion, the finely chopped garlic and the chili flakes. Cook, stirring regularly, for approximately 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste to the pot, along with the nutmeg, paprika and cook, stirring regularly for approximately 1 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water to the pot and cook, stirring regularly, for an additional 1 - 2 minutes.
- Add your cooked beans to the pot, followed by the rice. Stir well until everything is combined and cook for 1 minute. Add the remaining water to the pot.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium low heat and cook, covered for approximately 25 - 30 minutes. Check on your pot periodically to stir and to add more water if required. Season with salt and pepper.
- When the rice is cooked, remove pot from heat and let rest, uncovered, for approximately 5 minutes.