Feijoada – Spicy Beans Goan-Style – from India
Installment #4 in our continuing series on Rice & Beans.
The idea behind this series of mostly vegetarian meals is that if we eat more frugally just once a week, with the money we save We Can Feed Another…(Read about the hunger problem in the November 1st post that introduced the series.)
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In Goa, the smallest of India’s states and a former colony of Portugal, the people enjoy a spicy bean dish called Feijoada. It’s made with either black-eyed peas or kidney beans and is traditionally served over steamed rice. Even though Feijoada is sometimes made with the addition of sausage, India has a long tradition of vegetarianism and this dish holds up very well without it. Black-eyed peas, if you’ve never had them, are much smaller in size, have a more delicate taste and a more pleasant texture than their large red cousin the kidney bean, and it’s the bean we’ll use here.
I made my own curry powder for this – (only because I kind of like playing with spices – you might have noticed) – but you can certainly avoid that step and simply add a mild, good-quality curry you’ve purchased. I certainly would if I were looking to save time.
If you’d like to make your own curry powder –
Fragrant Curry Powder
(makes about ½ cup)
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg pieces (nutmeg can be broken with kitchen knife or back of heavy pan)
- seeds from 5 white cardamom pods (or 4 from green)
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon red peppercorns (optional)
- 2 Tablespoons cumin seeds
- ¼ cup coriander seeds (yes, ¼ cup)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 dried curry leaves, if you can find them (Indian grocers and some Asian markets would have them.)
- 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
Combine all the ingredients except the fenugreek in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook, shaking or stirring often, until the spices are lightly browned and their fragrance is rising. This will only take a few minutes. During the last minute of cooking, add the fenugreek powder and continue stirring.
Remove from heat and cool. Using a spice or coffee grinder, process the spices until finely ground. Store in a small lidded jar for up to several months.
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I started with dried black-eyed peas. For one thing, dry beans cost pennies. For another, I like the taste of home-cooked beans better. But again, if you’re short of time, you can find them canned and frozen. I’d recommend the frozen if you have a choice between the two.
If you’re starting with dried beans, soak them in enough water to cover by several inches for at least a few hours. (You can begin the morning of if that’s most convenient.) Discard the soaking water, start with fresh to cook the the beans. Put them in a good size pot, covered by a couple inches of water, no salt, and bring water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer while you prepare the rest of the stew.
Feijoada – Spicy Beans, Goan-Style
(serves at least 4)
- ½ pound dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over (or several cans – or – 1 or 1½ packages of frozen)
- 2 large onion, peeled (cut into large pieces)
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 small dried red chile or 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
- one 1-inch piece fresh ginger (about the thickness of a thumb) peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed, canola, corn or other neutral oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon Fragrant Curry Powder or any mild, good-quality curry powder
- 2 large tomatoes, cored, seeded, and roughly chopped (or about 1½ cups of canned diced tomatoes)
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 Tablespoon tamarind paste (see NOTE)
- Garnish: Torn cilantro leaves, wedges of fresh lime, and finely chopped red onion
NOTE: Tamarind paste is found in Asian section of many markets, next to curry paste. If you can’t locate it, you can use fresh lime juice to taste, but the tamarind paste also imparts a nice rich color to the soup as well as its characteristic tart.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the onions, garlic, chile, and ginger and process until thoroughly combined and resembling a paste.
Put the oil in a large saucepan or stove-top casserole dish over medium heat. Add the onion mixture, along with salt and pepper and curry powder. Cook until most of the moisture from the onions has evaporated and the mixture just begins to brown. (5 to 10 minutes.)
Add the tomatoes and coconut milk and bring to a boil. If you’re using pre-cooked beans (frozen or canned) add them now and cook for about 20 minutes. If you’re cooking your own beans, cook them in their separate pot until just shy of done before adding them to the rest of the soup. (Reserve some of the bean’s cooking liquid to add if you need a bit more liquid.) Cook for about about 30 minutes more after combining. These cooking times are variable and the soup is incredibly forgiving if cooked “too long.”
Just before serving, add the tamarind paste and stir to combine.
Serve over cooked rice. (To see how to bake perfect brown rice in the oven you can look here.) I chose to add some wild rice to brown basmati rice for this dish. The two rices have the same cooking times and the black and white rice looks good paired with the the black and white beans. Garnish with cilantro leaves, diced red onion and a wedge of lime.
This recipe was slightly adapted from one appearing in The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman
and consultation with Amit, my good friend from India