We bought tons of fresh rajma beans from the market yesterday. Pea pod-like but dotted with pretty little specks of pink, set against a canvas of white- lovely to behold. When shelled, these white beans cook faster than the dried variety, so two to three whistles in the pressure cooker should suffice.
The total opposite of a rich French cassoulet, a Lobio or bean dish from Georgia (a country that shares borders with Russia, Armenia and Turkey) is still deeply satisfying and perfect for the toasty kind of weather in Mumbai right now what with the receding rains. What I love about this dish are the bitter notes of ground fenugreek that sit so well beside tart, rich pomegranate syrup or molasses. It’s worth investing in a bottle of this, but you can always make your own substitute to pomegranate molasses by following this Alton Brown recipe. Believe me, it’s worth having a bottle of this lying around to top desserts or salads with. I can’t imagine eating fattoush without a good spoonful of pomegranate molasses tossed in there.
I started on this Lobio recipe I found from a very new cookbook, Taste Of Persia by Naomi Duguid, a cook who travelled through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Kurdistan recording recipes. Her previous work on Burma was what drew me to her; so rich was the edible heritage she presented before me, that it left me wanting to pound tangy, hot and spicy new recipes. In Taste Of Persia, this culinary anthropologist spins endearing accounts of her travels from the Caucasus mountains up north to the south of Iran. I know this Lobio recipe is no rajma chawal, but go by taste, and you’ll find yourself with a sour new favourite. Serve with brown rice, couscous or pita bread.
Cooked fresh rajma 2 cups, water not discarded
Red bell pepper 1/2, seeded
Vegetable Oil 3 tbsp
Red Onion 1/2 cup, finely chopped
Garlic cloves 4, minced
Chilli powder 1 tsp
Georgian spice mix 1 tbsp (given below)
Tomato puree 2-3 tbsp or tomato paste 1 heaped tablespoonful
Pomegranate Molasses 1 tbsp
Red wine a not-so-generous glug
Salt 1 tsp
Coriander to finish
Georgian Spice Blend or kmeli suneli (this will make an extra tablespoonful, which you can add to a world of things)
Kasturi methi 2 tbsp
Methi seeds 1 tbsp
Ground coriander or dhaniya pd. 2 tbsp
Dried Kashmiri red chilli 1 tsp
Dried mint 2 tsp
Dried Basil 2 tsp
Black pepper 1 tsp, freshly cracked
Pound/Mix the ingredients for the spice mix together with a bit of water and keep the cooked beans ready.
In a kadai, heat the vegetable oil and add in the bayleaf when the oil is hot enough. Next, add in the onion and let it cook till translucent. To this, add the garlic cloves and let it cook for about a minute.
Next, add in the chilli powder, the Georgian spice mix and the tomato puree. Now let this cook together for about 4-5 minutes.
Add in the beans together with their water. Mix well together and let it come up to a boil once again. Once it reaches a boil, bring it to a simmer once again and add the pomegranate molasses, the wine and salt. Let this simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes depending on how thin or thick you like it. Taste for any additional seasoning. Take it off the heat, add in the fresh coriander and put a lid on it. Serve hot.