Gandules and plantain dumplings

Many decades before urban gardens became a thing, grandma Isabel knew everything about growing herbs and vegetables in tin cans, old paint buckets and even the smallest corners of her humble backyard in Río Piedras.

In such a small space, many wouldn’t put the effort. But grandma had a green thumb. Her homegrown produce would supplement her weekly grocery shopping. Her gandules plant, in particular, was very important to her. It was the most precious ingredient in her delicious sopón, served with rice and tostones. 

With all the patience in the world, she would shell every silky pod while watching the latest telenovela. I still remember how the gandules had such a delicate sweet aroma that was almost floral. An aroma that’s only possible when you grow your own.

To shell every pod required a lot of work and yet, it felt so therapeutic sitting next to her and slowly going through the week’s bounty.

Her sopón was a sure thing the next day, perfectly stewed with a side of fluffy white rice. She used to say that a weekly plate of this tasty recipe was very good to treat my anemia, not that I needed an incentive to get a few extra spoonfuls. It was one of the most simple recipes, slowly cooked with garlic, recao (culantro) and sweet red pepper.

Benefits of Gandules

Gandules might’ve actually been the reason why my grandma got to live to 93 years old. These small beans are not only rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron, but are recommended to help reduce the overall aging process, gastric symptoms, heartburn and gas problems. It’s also a natural detoxifier and popular hangover cure. It helps keep the body balanced.

Some history behind it

Gandules are also considered a meat substitute in India and several Asian countries. They’re stewed with curry, tomato sauces, and other condiments. It's believed that this type of bean was brought to this part of the world from India, a country that used to trade with Egypt during 2,200 to 2,400 A.C. Once in Asia, it also started to spread to Africa and from there, it was brought to America by slaves. 

Today, it’s an important part of the daily diet in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Granada and Trinidad and Tobago. 

Moro de gandules is a favorite dish in Dominican Republic, while in Trinidad it’s used in a delicious stew with pumpkin called Pelau. In Puerto Rico, Arroz con Gandules is a must on every birthday and during the holidays.

For the purpose of this post, we decided to tribute my grandma with her favorite stew. Gandules con bollitas de plátano (Gandules with plantain dumplings).

This dish is satisfying and nutritious. Hope you guys enjoy it.

Gandules and plantain dumplings – Ingredients:
  • 1 Green plantain 
  • 2 Tablespoons of flour
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Teaspoon of fresh thyme
  • 1 Can of gandules (pigeon peas)
  • ½ Small onion, finely chopped 
  • 2-3 Recao leaves (Culantro or you can substitute with some cilantro)
  • 3 Cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ Cup of tomato sauce
  • ½ Teaspoon of achiote powder (annatto) 
  • 3 Tablespoons of red bell pepper 
  • Salt to taste

1. Grate the plantain. Sprinkle salt to taste and add the flour. Form small dumplings.

2.Briefly sauté the dumplings in a little bit of olive oil. Set aside. 

3. Sauté the veggies and herbs. Add the gandules and 1 ½ cups of water. Season to taste. Add achiote and tomato sauce. Cook for 5 minutes.

4. Add the dumplings. Let the stew thicken. Adjust seasoning. Serve as is or over white rice.

To read this post in Spanish, click here.

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