This is one of the most famous dishes in Haiti. If you have ever tasted Haitian food, you already know that Haitians do more than steam their vegetables. Here is the most popular way Haitians eat their vegetables. This dish is usually served with rice/beans, white rice, cornmeal, or Sorghum grain. I have also seen people eat it with bread and/or cassava. You can pretty much eat it however you want, there are no rules. This is how I prepare Haitian veggies known as Legume in French or Legim in Haitian Creole. I have young kids who don’t like to eat their vegetables or greens so this is the best way I make them eat veggies and greens and there are no complaints.
Main Ingredients: Eggplant, Chayote, carrots, cabbage, (spinach, French cut green beans and watercress are optional). I usually add French cut green beans and watercress as well but I did not for this particular dish. I only added spinach.
You will also need some oil (I use olive oil), shallots (I don’t like onions), tomato paste, Haitian spices.
I find that this dish can take a long time so you will need to have a lot of patience for it to be a success. For me, it takes anywhere between 2-2.5 hours.
In a large pot, I cut up and add 3 medium size eggplants, 8-9 chayotes, and one medium size cabbage. I add some bouillon seasoning but you can add any type of spices you like. I then add four cups of water and some olive oil. The chayote produces a lot of liquid so I don’t add too much water. I turn the stove on between low and medium so it doesn’t dry quickly. I let it cook for 1 hour to 1.25 hours. I do this so the chayote can be soft. This make it easier to mash it. I usually set the timer for an hour and fifteen minutes.
After it’s done, let it sit for a few minutes so you don’t get burned while mashing it. I then move the eggplants and chayotes to a large bowl or pot for mashing. You can use whatever you want but I use a wooden Haitian pestle to mash mine. Once I am done mashing the eggplants and chayote, I add everything from the pot to the mashed veggies.
I put the pot back on the stove (put it on medium this time) and I add some olive oil. I then add the shallots, Haitian spices, and tomato paste and I stir it until the tomato paste has a brownish color. I don’t let it cook too long so the tomato paste doesn’t burn. If it’s burned it will become black. I then add everything from the pot which include the mashed veggies and cabbage. At this point, I add as many carrots as I want and some spinach (if I am using watercress and French cut green beans I add them as well). Once I add all those things, I keep stirring and tasting. I let it cook on medium but I stir often. Add more spices as needed. Once I notice the liquid is reduced, I lower the stove to between low/medium. If you put a spoon in the legim and it’s filled with liquid then it’s not ready. I don’t let all the liquid dry because otherwise the legim will be too dry. If the liquid or sauce looks thick then it’s probably ready to be served. And voila!
As you can see, legim takes a lot of work and patience. I usually make a big pot so we can eat it for several days. If you end up with too much, you can also freeze some. Just remember, legim can go bad quickly so you can’t be heating it up and putting it back in the fridge several times. It’s always best to heat up just the amount you need and leave the rest in the fridge. I am not sure how long it takes before it goes bad in the fridge but I would suggest not leaving it in the fridge for more than a week.
Check out our post where we covered Haitian food in more detail. See the post here.