Bambara Bean and cowpea stew served with Dombolo (South African steam bread) 

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» Bambara Bean and cowpea stew served with Dombolo (South African steam bread) 

Bambara beans (also known as groundnuts) and cowpeas are nutritious and delicious legumes that have been a staple in African cuisine for centuries.  

These legumes thrive in the warm climate and sandy soil of Africa, making them a sustainable and accessible source of food for many communities. 

They can be used in a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, salads, and even desserts. Their versatility allows you to experiment with different flavours and textures, adding an African twist to your meals.  

Here’s a recipe for you to try:  

Serves: 4 people  

Prep time: 10 min  

Cook time: 40 min  

For the Bambara Bean and cowpea stewBambara Bean and cowpea stew served with Dombolo (South African steam bread)


  • 1 tbsp olive oil  
  • 1 onion, finely chopped 
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced. 
  • Spices (1 teaspoon ground chilli powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon turmeric powder, ¼ teaspoon chilli flakes  
  • 1 Vegetable stock cube   
  • 1 litre water 
  • 400g Bambara beans, drained and rinsed 
  • 400g black-eyed peas or cowpeas, drained and rinsed 
  • 2 Mixed bell peppers (1 red and 1 green ), largely chopped 
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, finely chopped 
  • Fresh coriander, to garnish 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (optional)  


  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and minced garlic. Sauté for a few minutes until they become soft and translucent.  
  2. Add the ground chilli powder, ground cumin, paprika, turmeric powder, and chilli flakes. Mix well to coat the onion and garlic with the spices. 
  3. Add the diced sweet potatoes, stock cube, chilli flakes and simmer for 15  minutes or until soft and have absorbed the spices and flavours. 
  4. Add the drained and rinsed Bambara beans and black-eyed peas (or cowpeas) to the pot. Stir to combine with the sweet potatoes and broth. 
  5. Add the mixed bell peppers and finely chopped fresh tomatoes to the pot. Mix well until all the vegetables are well combined. 
  6. Simmer the stew for another 15-20 minutes, or until all the vegetables have fully cooked and the flavours have melded together. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Garnish with fresh coriander.  
  7. Seve the Bambara bean and Cowpea stew with steamed bread on the side. Enjoy!  

For Dombolo (South African steamed bread):  

Serves: 4-6 people  

Prep time: 45 minutes  

Steaming: 1 hour  


To make dough:  

  • 500g  bread flour 
  • A pinch of salt 
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar 
  • 125ml olive oil 
  • ½ sachet  instant yeast 
  • 250ml water 

To steam bread: 

  • 375ml water  


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread flour, sugar, salt and instant yeast.  
  2. Add oil and water and knead the dough for about 10-15 minutes until it's smooth and elastic. Place the dough back in the mixing bowl, cover it with a clean cloth or plastic wrap, and let it proof (rise) in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in size. It may take about 30 minutes to 1 hour. 
  3. After the first proofing, punch down the dough to release the air and knead for 1-2 minutes, then divide the dough into individual portions and shape them into round rolls or dumplings. 
  4. Oil the tins or containers where you'll be steaming the dombolo to prevent sticking. 
  5. Place the shaped dough portions in the tins, cover them with a cloth or plastic wrap, and allow them to proof for a second time until they rise again.  
  6. While the dough is undergoing the second proofing, prepare a pot of water on low heat. The water should be boiling with steam but not at a rolling boil. 
  7. Once the dough has completed the second proofing, carefully place the tins in the pot of simmering water, ensuring the water doesn't touch the dombolo. 
  8. Cover the pot and steam the dombolo for about 1 hour. Maintain a low simmer to generate steam without overcooking the dombolo. 
  9. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick or skewer into a dombolo,  it should come out clean when they are ready. Remove the tins from the pot and allow the dombolo to cool slightly before serving. Serve with Bambara bean and cowpea stew!  


Where to find bambara beans:  

  • You can find these in most African supermarkets across the UK. You can substitute with chickpeas, black beans butter beans. You can also find cowpeas in most African supermarkets or  Asda, Sainsbury’s or Waitrose & Partners.  

Tips for the dough:   

  • The dough should be non-sticky to the hands when properly kneaded. You may need to add a small amount more flour or water to achieve the right consistency, as flour's moisture content can vary. 
  • The use of instant yeast reduces the proofing time significantly. If you're using active dry yeast, you'll need to activate it in warm water with a pinch of sugar before adding it to the dry ingredients. Follow the yeast manufacturer's instructions for activation. 
  • During the first proofing, make sure to place the dough in a warm, draft-free place. This helps to speed up the rising process. The time needed for rising can vary depending on room temperature and yeast activity. 
  • When shaping the dough portions into rolls or dumplings, try to make them as even in size as possible to ensure even steaming. 
  • Use tins or containers with a lid when steaming the dombolo. If you don't have small tins, you can use a large bowl, but be sure to slice the steam bread into individual portions once it's done and has cooled down. 
  • When placing the tins in the pot for steaming, ensure that the water doesn't touch the dombolo. This prevents the bread from becoming soggy and helps it steam properly. 
  • Maintain a low simmer while steaming, as rapid boiling may cause the dombolo to lose its shape or become tough. 
  • To check for doneness, insert a toothpick or skewer into a dombolo. It should come out clean when they are ready to show that the bread is cooked through. 

Tips for steaming water:  

  • The pot of water should be hot and generating steam before you place the tins or containers inside. 
  • The water level should be below the tins, and it should not touch the dough. 


  • If you have a leftover dombolo, store it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Beyond that, it's best to refrigerate or freeze it. 
  • To freeze, wrap individual portions tightly in plastic wrap and place them in a freezer-safe bag. They can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

Livhuwani is a food photographer, a recipe creator and a food blogger at Her mission is to encourage more plants on plates while also promoting African indigenous ingredients. 


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