I think I know how to cook beans.
I do it all the time. All kinds of beans. Black beans, white beans, chickpeas, lentils…
I also don’t subscribe to many of the voodoos surrounding beans.
I usually cook my beans with a dash of vegetable broth and a couple of bay leaves. I don’t worry about salting them. Sometimes I may throw in some kombu if I remember.
Sometimes I cook my beans without soaking them. They just takes a bit longer to cook.
After 45-60 minutes (depending on the bean), I will taste them every 10-15 minutes or so. They can go from al dente to mush in 10 minutes, if you aren’t vigilant.
One of my newest favourite beans are split pigeon peas, also known as toor dal or toovar/tuvar dal.
When Rob and I discovered you actually buy green mangos (labelled as green mangoes) for some Indian curries, I immediately knew I wanted to make a simple curry with toor dal. I love the way it falls apart, becomes creamy and has sweet undertones.
I forged ahead with the dal. They were not done after 30 minutes, nor an hour. I added more broth. I kept cooking, I added more broth. I kept cooking, and I added even more water. These beans were just never melt-in-your-mouth tender like my previous toor dal curries.
I know what you’re thinking (because I would think it, too): It is your batch of beans. They are old.
Not so!! At the same time, Rob was making a ripe mango curry with toor dal (Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango) and he used the same beans. From the same bag. Within an hour, his beans were meltingly tender. With a glorious sweet and savoury curry.
While my curry was tart and somewhat crunchy. After around 2 hours, I think I gave up. I decided the curry was too tart so I added in the suggested sweetener and it tasted much better. With a dusting of garam masala, the flavours really popped. The toor dal, however, remained a bit on the plump side. This was still a nice curry, just not with the creamy, falling apart toor dal I was expecting. The beans kept their shape instead, just like when I toasted the mung dal in the Bengali Dal with Spinach.
I haven’t really paid much attention to whether I throw acidic foods with my beans, but since green mangoes are acidic, that must be the culprit. Maybe that specific urban bean legend is actually true. ;)
Next time, I will add in the mango after the toor dal has cooked sufficiently, though. ;)
Green Mango Curry
Adapted from Indian Food Forever
1 cup toor dal (split pigeon peas) or yellow split peas
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 green/unripe mango (~1 cup), cut into 1 inch cubes
1-2 tsp agave or sugar, to taste
Salt, to taste
1 tbsp oil
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
5 -6 curry leaves
1/4 tsp Aleppo chile flakes
2-3 green chiles, deseeded and chopped
1tbsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp coriander leaves (finely chopped)
1. As you get set up, rinse the toor dal and soak in water for around 30 minutes.
2. Drain the toor dal.
3. In a medium-sized pot, add the drained toor dal, turmeric, mango (add now if you want plump lentils, later if you want a more tender dal), sweetener, 2-3 cups of water and salt, to taste. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 60 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. They will not be falling apart and mushy if you add the mango at the beginning. The green mango will have disintegrated.
4. Meanwhile, in a small frypan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds, cover, and do not remove the lid until they stop popping. Add the asofoetida, curry leaves, green chiles, chile flakes and grated ginger. Stir well and then reduce the heat to low. Once the ginger is lightly browned, add it to the toor dal and stir well.
5. Continue to cook another 10-15 minutes to meld the flavours, stirring occasionally.
6. Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly. Stir in the garam masala. Adjust with your sweetener, salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro prior to serving. Serve with rice or a flatbread.