Lobia or black-eyed beans follow the classic recipe for lentils, so this is another nice place to start to learn the variety of Indian food. I like to think of most Indian food as falling into two broad categories – “wet” and “dry”.
Last time, I demonstrated dry, so this time it’s the wet, and this can be easily used (with slight tweaks perhaps) for nearly any daal (lentils) like (and I use hindi names here out of ignorance) mung sabut (mung bean lentils?), channa (chickpeas) or channa daal (split chickpeas), and a whole variety I know not the names of. Not to mention my favourite, rajma (red kidney beans), though the preparation for that is a little different.
What you will need is a pressure cooker. They are the key for making “wet” Indian dishes in my house – the pressure cooker is a great way to save time. The other way would be to use a saucepan/pot and boil for a long time, or a slow-cooker which takes almost a whole day. Unfortunately, this is also pretty uncommon, as far as I’m aware, outside of Indian homes…
What you’ll need
- Black-eyed beans: one cup by volume (8 fl. oz.). It’s a little approximate, like all Indian cooking (plus I have no weighing machine), but that’s usually enough to serve 2 – 3 as a main, 3 to 4 as a side.
- 1 large onion: I prefer red onions, but you can use whichever variety is at hand. Use a food processor to chop them finely.
- Peeled tomatoes: half a tin does the trick (minimum), but if you’d prefer to use fresh tomatoes, one large or two small (e.g. roma) does the trick. Purée them; the result should be basically liquid.
- Garlic: two cloves, finely chopped, or a teaspoon of pre-processed.
- Spices – Ginger, salt, garam masala, lal mirch (red chilli powder), coriander powder: all in roughly the same proportions as for the aloo gobi. It’d be fairly easy to prepare a mix of all the powders beforehand, as they’re all going to get mixed in anyway, and could be useful in future.
- Cooking oil: 1 – 2 tablespoons. Any will do; I favour olive.
- Water: roughly 4 cups (2 litres) – 4 times as much as the Lobia by volume.
- Half an hour to 40 min for cooking.
The Method to this Madness
- Wash the lobia and allow them to soak in water for about 5 min – this is just to soften them up initially, and if you prefer firmer then don’t leave them to soak.
- Heat oil in pressure cooker with lid open, or alternatively use separate saucepan – using the same saves time, effort & mess, though.
- Add chopped onions, spices, garlic & ginger. Sauté until onions start to change colour – on high heat this should be fairly quickly. Reduce the heat at this point.
- Add puréed tomatoes, and mix in well to ensure a relatively even mix. Allow to simmer until the tomato starts to separate – oil should start becoming visible on top of the mix. Mix this further for a little bit to ensure evenness.
- Add black-eyed beans & water, ensuring that the water at least covers all the beans. Mix well.
- Increase the heat and close the lid of the pressure cooker. Put on the weight/pressure-inducing device at this point, although you can wait until steam starts to emerge, to ensure things are working fine.
- Make a note of the time – in 15 min from this point, we want to turn off the heat
- At the first whistle/release of pressure, reduce the heat to low
- Wait 15 min, and then turn off the heat
- Leave for another 10 – 15 min, then open it up, releasing the pressure if necessary
- You should have a nice broth, more liquid than solid, with softened black-eyed beans.
- If it appears a little thick, add hot water now. If upon tasting the spices are a little low, add spices & boil for a couple of minutes to ensure even mix. If the beans are not soft, boil for another 5 minutes, under pressure, to allow them to soften a bit.
- Serve hot with basmati rice
Timings will need tweaking for other types of lentils, but the basic template is the same – quite flexible to your needs. Cooking without a pressure cooker would probably take well over an hour, though as I’ve not done this yet it’s simply a guess. Et voila, a recipe for the “wet” Indian dishes :)