Sunday, November 1, 2009

Black Eyed Beans Gravy (Serves 4)

I used to eat this dish a lot when I used to live in India. I used to travel a lot to Pune, the second largest city in the state of Maharashtra, and very close to Mumbai.

There were a few specific Maharashtrian cuisine style restaurants that I used to frequent on every occasion in Pune. I just love the taste of Maharashtrian food, and Pune is a place that won’t disappoint you in that regard.

There is one dish that I still remember from my visits that I used to relish. This was an usal (gravy that is made predominantly with pulses) made with black eyed beans. I recreated this dish at home one night when I was really craving that taste. I have to say that it came out fantastic. I am sharing it here.

One of the main spices in this dish and in many Maharashtrian dishes is ‘goda masala’, a blend of several spices. There are several different variations to this masala or blend.

The list of spices that are used to make this masala include sesame, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, lichen, cardamom, bay leaves, black pepper, and lichen. Some add coconut to this, and some do not add all the ingredients mentioned above. All of these spices are then roasted in a little oil until they are dark brown in color and then put in a grinder to make a coarse to fine powder.

I usually buy readymade goda masala from a small Maharashtrian restaurant in Mumbai whose food I can’t talk enough about. I am getting the recipe from the owner that I will then provide here for everyone. One can also go to a big Indian grocery store and buy goda masala made by this company called ‘Everest’. I just stumbled upon it the other day when I was in New Jersey. I don’t know how good it tastes though.

Anyway, coming back to the black eyed beans usal recipe, here’s how that came about.

2 ½ cups cooked black eyed beans

2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed

1 large red onion chopped into small pieces

1/3 cup medium shredded dry coconut

1 tsp red chili powder

1 ½ tbsp goda masala powder

3 tbsp oil

Salt to taste

5 tomatoes cut into small pieces

2 ½ cups hot water

1 bunch fresh coriander leaves

You can either soak the beans in water for a couple of hours and then pressure cook it (till the steam is let out 2 times by the cooker), or soak it preferably overnight and then just cook it along with all the ingredients.

In a large pan add oil. Once the oil is medium hot, add the onions, garlic, goda masala, red chili powder, coconut, a little salt and let them all cook in the oil.

Once you just start seeing the oil separating and the coconut starts turning light brown, add the tomatoes and continue sautéing.

After a few minutes, add the beans and salt to taste, and 2 1/2 cups of hot water (or according to the consistency you want) and continue cooking on low to medium flame. If you really like the smoky flavor of the goda masala a lot, you can add another ½ tbsp of the same while the beans are cooking.

Once the beans are cooked and you can taste the flavor of the spices in the cooked beans, remove the dish from the fire and garnish with fresh coriander leaves finely chopped.

Serve hot with chapattis or tortillas, or with rice in which case you may want to add more water to the gravy.

Health rating: High

Ingredient Substitute/s: If you don’t have black eyed beans, you can add green moong dal, or brown lentils, or any pulse or beans you like. If you are adding kidney beans then adjust the spices and tomatoes etc. accordingly because of the thicker consistency of kidney beans compared to black eyed beans.

You can also go without the coconut but I feel that the taste factor goes way down when you do that.

If you don’t have goda masala or can’t procure it, you can easily add garam masala (1 tsp) along with some freshly ground (coriander/cumin/black pepper) (1 tbsp) and that should be fine, except that you really have to taste goda masala and its unique flavor along with the coconut to enjoy this dish at its best taste.

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