Sunday, February 24, 2008

Samp and Beans, Enlivened with Lime

Corn has been getting a lot of publicity lately. But even before industrial agriculture dug its claws into this versatile cereal and invented high-fructose corn syrup, cultures around the world had devised myriad techniques for consuming every edible part of the plant. In Zimbabwe, you can buy roasted maize by the side of the road, or bags of popped maize, called maputi. Finely ground white maize (mealie-meal) is used to make the staple dish, sadza, as well as a thin porridge commonly eaten for breakfast. A Zimbabwean could easily eat corn three times a day.

Another corn permutation, common in southern Africa as well as the southern U.S. and Mexico – not to mention a food that kept the colonists alive in New England – is samp. Much has been written in an attempt to explain the difference between samp, hominy and grits, a task complicated by regional usages of these terms within the U.S. Here is how I distinguish between them:

- Hominy is dried, whole kernels of corn whose skins (or hulls) and germs (the little bit inside the kernel) have been removed.
- Samp is the same thing, except the kernels are cracked into a few pieces.
- Grits are ground hominy. Mealie-meal and polenta (typically made from yellow corn, instead of white) both differ from grits in that the hull and germ are not removed before grinding the dried kernels.

Got it?

Samp is typically paired with dried beans in southern Africa. In fact, you can often buy the soulmates packaged together in one bag. In South Africa, samp and beans (umngqusho) is a traditional dish of the Xhosa people, and was supposedly one of Nelson Mandela’s favorite meals growing up. You can serve cooked samp and beans with sautéed or fried onions, with butter, or with any sauce of your choosing.

This refreshing recipe employs lime, honey and mustard to create a light, punchy take on samp and beans that makes a refreshing side for shellfish or a lively addition to a summer salad buffet.

Honey-Lime Samp and Beans Salad
Adapted from Food and Home Entertaining, May 2005
Serves 4 as a side dish

1¼ cups / 200 grams samp (you can substitute hominy)
½ cup / 100 grams sugar beans (you can substitute pinto beans)
2 teaspoons / 10 milliliters salt
¼ cup / 60 milliliters olive oil
1 tablespoon / 15 milliliters whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon / 15 milliliters honey
Zest of one lime
2 tablespoons / 30 milliliters fresh basil leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Rinse the samp and beans and soak overnight. Drain, put in a medium saucepan, cover generously with water and add the salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until tender, about 1½-2 hours. Drain and set aside.

Whisk together the olive oil, mustard, honey, lime zest and basil leaves and season to taste. Pour over the still-warm samp and beans and leave to cool. Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate and serve cool, garnished with the remaining basil leaves.


Kalyn said...

So interesting; I've never heard of this before!

Jeanne said...

I have a packet of samp & beans, lovingly carried back from SOuth Africa! Umngqusho is indeed meant to be one of Madiba's favourite foods, and when times are good it's also the custom to serve it with lamb knuckles. Love the idea of giving it a new twist with lime - real African fusion food!

We are Never Full said...

I love this post! Thanks for the lesson on samp (which I'd never heard of before) vs. hominy (which I LOVE). This recipe looks delish and very unique.

all inclusive vacations said...

I love the photo..the contrast is great!