I have previously posted a few other recipes for white beans made in a broad Indian stye. See, for example, this, this, this and this. Looking at these recipes—or, for that matter, at my other Indian bean recipes as well—you might think that they’re all iterations of each other. And you’d be right—that is pretty much what cooking is. You find a general palette of flavours you like and play with proportions and with a few additions and subtractions and expand the range of preparations you make. Today’s recipe for white beans is most obviously an iteration on the recipe I posted in December for “White Bean Stew with Cumin and Ginger”. This one adds more spices and alters the proportions of acid and sugar and ends up a clear relative but with an identity of its own. I make it with Rancho Gordo’s Alubia Blanca beans but if they’re not available when you read this it would be just as good with their Cassoulet, Gay Caballero, Ayocote Blanco or Marcella beans. And if you don’t have any white beans, any other mild bean such as the Mayacoba would work well too. What you want is a bean that will hold its shape and whose pot liquor will let the flavour of the spices come through. I have a block against using the much larger white beans like Royal Corona or Large White Limas in a dish like this but I couldn’t explain why. Just go with it.
- 1 lb Rancho Gordo alubia blanca beans or similar
- 1 large dried tez patta/cassia/bay leaf
- 5 pods green cardamom
- 1 large piece cassia bark/cinnamon
- 5 cloves
- 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 tspn freshly grated ginger
- The following lightly toasted, cooled and ground to a fine powder: 1.5 tspn cumin seed, 1 tspn coriander seed, 1 tspn sesame seed, 1 tspn fennel seed, 1 tspn black peppercorn, 1/2 tspn methi/fenugreek seed, 2-3 dried red chillies of choice
- 3/4 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
- 1 tspn jaggery/brown sugar
- 1 tblspn balsamic vinegar
- 1 Thai chilli slit lengthwise (optional)
- 2-3 tblspns of grapeseed or avocado oil or similar
- Rinse the beans, drain and place in your bean pot of choice with enough water to cover by a few inches and bring to a boil over medium heat.
- When the beans have been on the boil for 10 minutes add the tez patta, lower to a simmer, cover and cook till the beans are done: easily yielding to the tooth but still holding their shape (less than 60 minutes to this point if using Rancho Gordo alubia blancas). You will need to top up the water as you go (I keep freshly boiled water ready at the side in my electric kettle).
- When the beans have simmered for 30 minutes start preparing the tadka.
- Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat and when it shimmers add the whole garam masala (the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves).
- As soon as they turn fragrant (less than a minute) add the sliced onions and saute, stirring often till just beginning to brown on the edges.
- Add the ginger, mix in and saute for another minute or so till the whole is browned some more.
- Add the haldi, salt and ground masalas, mix in and saute for a minute or so.
- Add the jaggery/brown sugar and vinegar, mix in and saute for another minute or so.
- Add the contents of the skillet to the cooked beans, mix in thoroughly, add the slit green chilli (if using), cover the pot and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
- Serve hot over rice, with chapatis or tortillas, or just out of a bowl.
- Depending on how hot your red chillies are this will pack a nice bite from the combination of the dried and fresh chillies and the peppercorn. You can always reduce the amount of dried red chilli and/or leave the slit green chilli out at the end; but you do want there to be some bite: the peppercorn is what I wouldn’t omit.
- If the stuff in the skillet begins to stick at the end just add a ladleful of the pot liquor from the beans to loosen it before you add it all to the bean pot.
- Any vinegar will do and you can experiment with the ratio of vinegar to brown sugar to get the tart-sweet accent of the dish to where you like it.
- The final texture of the gravy should be easily pourable but not at all thin or watery. If the beans are soupy at the point at which you add the tadka do the last simmer uncovered to cook it down a bit. The beans should just be peeking over the top of the gravy when done.
- You could garnish this with a bit of chopped dhania/cilantro if you insist—I don’t think it’s necessary.