This is the other dish I used the naan to soak up. I think it worked better with the Saag/Callaloo, though. It ends up either too liquidy or sauce-less. Probably a better idea to serve it with rice, but there was no way I was making rice when I had already made delicious naan.
I actually made this for the first time on Christmas Day. I don’t like tofu products so I needed a bean dish for two vegetarians coming to dinner. One was from Bangladesh and one was from Ethiopia. This called for spices. It didn’t go well with the miso gravy or vegetarian stuffing…and it was probably everyone’s least favourite dish at the time, but I figured I should give it a second shot as part of an Indian meal, and I also wanted to see if I could improve it by using up the last pieces of smoked mackerel. Since I had thought it was too bland and watery before, I hoped the fish would give it a bit more depth, like the saag callaloo, and if nothing else, the salt wouldn’t hurt. This probably would have made more sense for New Years when black-eyed bean dishes (often Hoppin’ John) are made for luck. It’s pretty common to see it in the Southern United States, served with Collard Greens, but I am the queen of poor timing, and my accent is far from Southern belle, so I chose Christmas instead.
1 3/4 cups black-eyed beans picked over, washed and drained
5 cups of water
lots of fresh mushrooms
a cinnamon stick
1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
garlic to your tastes (more is better – 4 or 5 is good), chopped finely
4 tomatoes (choose ones that don’t taste like water. This is hard in winter…you could also use canned ones, drained, and don’t add any more salt, but the flavour isn’t the same. Organic roma tomatoes that have a sweet flavour are your best bet, or maybe two packages of sweet cherry tomatoes), peeled and chopped (Madhur Jaffrey thinks the teture is better if you peel the tomatoes, which involves placing them in boling water for 15 seconds and then rinsing them in cold water. I’m not so fussy)
2 tsp. ground coriander! This is a strong flavour for the dish, but it’s less intense when cooked
1 tsp. ground cumin
cayenne to taste (1/4 – 1/2 tsp)
2 tsp of salt (or none if you’re using canned tomatoes or adding smoked or salt fish)
smoked fish, optional
freshly ground black pepper
chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish
Beans have a bad reputation. The trick to make them easier to digest is…well, there are a lot of tricks, and really no one solution, but here’s something that may help:
1. Bring the dry beans to a boil first with just water and then skim off the scum after you’ve reduced the heat to medium and simmered for 2 minutes. If you soak them overnight (or eight hours) instead of boiling them and leaving them for an hour, like this recipe, make sure you drain the soaking liquid and start with fresh water. This takes some of the starch out of them, which is hard to digest. Actually, after an hour of letting the pot sit after boiling, covered, I still drained the water and started with 5 more cups. Wasteful, yes. Necessary? Yes.
While the beans are resting, cut the mushrooms into thin slices. This can take awhile. Normally I’d say don’t wash the mushrooms but they’re going to get stewed in a pot of liquid anyway, so washing is quicker and less wasteful than wiping with paper towel. Make sure you’ve got the onions and garlic ready to go. You can even get the tomatoes peeled (optional) and chopped and add the coriander, turmeric, ground cumin and cayenne as it all goes in together.
Now it’s easy. Boil the beans again and skim off the scum, again. Cover the pot and turn the heat to low to cook for 20-30 minutes, until the beans are tender but not mush. If they’re ready before you’re set to add the tomato mixture below, just turn off the heat and let the pot sit. In theory you could drain the beans again and start with five more cups of water but that’s overkill, and you lose a lot of bean flavour, as they actually do have flavour, and the dish will be blander without it.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat (either don’t use olive oil or keep it below medium-high heat until some liquid is added). When the oil is hot add the cumin seeds and cinnamon. 5-6 seconds later (really??) add the onions and garlic. Stir until the onions turn brown at the edges. If you use less oil, cook until the onions are soft. Put in the mushrooms and fry until they “wilt”.
Wilt?…Really? Leafy greens wilt, flowers wilt, but mushrooms? How about until they darken and shrink slightly? Not exactly wilting. Maybe the publishers didn’t think that was the best way to word the recipe? Understandable, I guess. Either way, fry the mushrooms until they’re not as happy as they once were, which actually doesn’t take that long…happens a little too quickly for my tastes, but isn’t that often the case?
Moving on, Add the tomato mixture with the spices and cook, stirring, for a minute. Cover the pot and turn the heat to low to simmer for 10 minutes.
Then add it to the bean and water mixture, which has been brought back up to a simmer. Add the smoked fish (or salt), black pepper and cilantro or parsley. Stir and simmer, topless (the pan, not you necessarily), on medium-low for another 30 minutes. Stir every now and then when you remember. Serve in bowls or it’ll run all over the plate.
This recipe takes forever. An hour and 15 minutes to quick soak the beans, then at least 30 minutes to cook the beans and make the tomato mixture, lets say 45 to be fair. Then another 35 minutes to let it all cook together…but the flavour! It was much better this time than last. You just don’t get that kind of flavour infused into the beans if you rush the cooking process. That’s when you get tasteless beans and start pitying vegetarians everywhere. Even without the smoked fish, this is a good recipe. It’s not as flavourful as Indian lamb or beef recipes, but like the saag, it’s very satisfying. The mushrooms wilted quickly but the dish as a whole went the distance. Even the mushrooms flavoured the dish in the end. Kind of like how even a bad relationship can be good for you in the long run, you get something positive out of it. Besides, I love mushrooms and would hate for them to be dismissed as the butt of a long, mediocre analogy.