Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Saving the Soup; or, Creamy Bean Curry

A little while ago, possessed of a small package of mixed beans and desiring to improve their place in the world, I made the Tuscan Multi-Bean soup from The Daily Soup Cookbook, by Leslie Kaul and Bob Spiegel. It's a vegetarian soup, so it doesn't have the hearty flavour of meat stock. It does have celery, garlic, onion, rosemary, bay leaves, tomatoes, and a variety of beans, however, so I expected a bowl of beany bliss at the end of all the work. Alas, this was not the case. Maybe my tastebuds have been spoiled by the rich flavours of Indian and Middle Eastern food, but these beans were just banal.

Unfortunately, the recipe resulted in enormous amounts of the bland brew. I decided to freeze most of it, figuring it could be saved with some spicing some time in the future. This is a little like the attempts to freeze the bodies of incurably ill people in the hope that one day, in the future, there will be a medicine for what ails them. I had faith enough in progress to believe I would, one day, find a solution for these beans. Well, in progress, and in my masala dabba:

When their turn finally came, I turned to another book for inspiration, the tantalizing but somewhat overwhelming 660 Curries, by Raghavan Iyer. I knew I wanted to use yoghurt to make the beans into a creamy curry, and sure enough, Iyer has a recipe for Kidney Beans with a Cardamom-Yogurt Sauce. This I used as a starting point for technique. I also introduced garlic and ginger into the recipe, and used slightly different spices. And, of course, the beans themselves had already been cooked into a soup with the "Tuscan" spices and with tomatoes, so this curry wasn't going to look anything like Iyer's version.

First, I heated two tablespoons of ghee, and sauteed a finely chopped onion for a few minutes, along with 6-7 cardamom pods. I then added chopped ginger (about an inch), and chopped garlic (3-4 cloves -- I love garlic!). I added two teaspoons of turmeric, sauteed for a while, and then dropped in two cups or so of tart, Greek-style yoghurt. The next step was to cook the yoghurt for ten minutes or so to reduce it down to its curds. This was the most fascinating technique I learned from Iyer's recipe; I know to put yoghurt at the end of a curry and to keep it from curdling, but it had never occurred to me that you could boil down yoghurt into a tart sauce at the start of a curry.

After the yoghurt had cooked down for a while, I folded in several cups of bean soup. I spiced it with two small teaspoons of sea salt, two teaspoons garam masala, and a pinch of cayenne.

After cooking it for fifteen minutes more, I had a rich and intensely spiced bean curry, a dish worlds away from the blandness of Tuscan bean soup. It was perfect with some Dallas-bought injera.

The result may not look too different, but I assure you, this dish is worlds away from the original. This was the rebirth of the bean.


tasteofbeirut said...


I applaud your persistence; see, your soup could be saved after all! the techniques of cooking yogurt to its curds is unknown in my part of the world, where we like the cooked yogurt not to curdle and stay creamy!

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Crystal said...

I am so happy I found your blog. I love Salat de Vinete. I spent a year in Romania playing professional basketball. While there, I ate some pretty unique things and found that I loved them. Vinete being one of them. I have told many people about it but for some reason was never able to find the recipe. Now I have found a blog loaded with recipes. Thank you for posting this. Feel free to email me at

Medifast Coupon said...

Well what a good idea, good for you.

tasteofbeirut said...

This soup sounds awesome with curries! Great strategy.

i said...

Thanks! It looks terrible, I have to say... not at all photogenic. But I do hate bland soup, and curries solve that!