Legumes / Lentils & Rasams/ Recipes

middle eastern white beans with sweet bell pepper pilaf

Beans and rice are just not comfort foods, I believe they are our soul foods too, may be the term “soul foods” has a string attached to the African – American cuisine, but this is the kind of meal that can support an entire civilization and whether we combine it with rice or bread, is culture specific.

Such foods which usually has a high protein content, not only nourishes the body but also left completely satisfied, a state of being when the body does not crave for anymore food.

As it cruises its way down the gourmet lanes, the perception of such comfort / soul foods changes, and with it brings a whole new meaning, which is more metro sexual in nature and has a über cool quotient attached to it. It becomes highly opinionated then, initiates the battle of sexes and sometimes become more overpowering.

When such transformations begins, the elements of nostalgia and the region of origin takes a back seat and is left to the imagination of the chefs, sometimes it works, sometimes it becomes chaotic.


Beans may not be the first thing that will hit you when you think of mid-eastern cuisine, but then as I say, it is the soul food ! So, in the labyrinths of kabobs, pilafs, fattoush, falafel, hummus…..you may stumble over this bowl of white beans which is usually prepared with chopped lambs, slowly cooked over the fire in a lamb broth which emanates the aromas of so many different spices, and as the magic flows through, it leaves you in a state of trance with the strong Arabic melodies in the background.

White beans or the cannellini beans are utterly mild  but has a buttery taste, and for this reason they are often substituted as mashed potatoes in American cuisine, if it gets cooked over for a longer time, they slowly absorbs the flavour and acquire a different taste. So, if something more flavourful and tarty or tangy ingredients are added to it, the mild taste of white beans will be inhibited.

The idea here was to suitably flavouring it and at the same time keeping its buttery taste intact, the tomato puree that was used in the recipe should be supportive and not overpowering, with a hint of nutmeg and freshness of cilantro added a distinct taste to it which is very much middle eastern in nature.

The only difference that I made here is that I have not used lamb or lamb broth, and that itself transforms it into something new, and instead I have used vegetable broth mildly flavoured and I always prefer it over plain water. Smoky cumin and cayenne peppers , Indian red chillies also make their way into this bowl of white beans, and their inclusion in the mideastern cuisine has probably come from India and Africa.

Mideastern cuisines are also heavily laden with variety of dry fruits, which imparts a nutty flavour but I have not used them here, instead I have used fresh pomegranate juice to tackle the tarty-ness of tomato puree, but this is absolutely optional.


White beans / cannellini beans : canned / tinned or dry; only I can of white beans has been used here
Tomato puree : 3-4 tbsp
Vegetable broth : 2 cups (fresh / or low-sodium packets)
Fresh ginger (chopped) : 1 tsp
Garlic (minced) : 1 tsp
Nutmeg (grated) : 1/2 tsp (this is highly flavourful)
Cumin Powder : 1 tsp
Indian red chilli powder / cayenne powder : 1 tsp
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pomegranate juice (optional) : 1/2 cup to tackle the tartness of tomato puree
Fresh cilantro leaves
Oil : 1 tbsp

Instructions / method :

If you are using dry beans, then soak them overnight in water and pressure cooked them or in a slow cooker for 2-3 hours. Or if you are using canned beans, like I do, then rinsed them in water before cooking.

Heat some oil in a pan and fry the garlic and ginger till they turn slightly brownish in color.

Add the tomato puree and saute for few minutes (5-6 max), add the cumin and red chilli powder and fry for a while.

Next add the vegetable broth and let it simmer for 10 minutes till it thickens a little.

Now add the white beans / cannellini and mix them well, saute for couple of minutes and sprinkle the grated nutmeg over it, season it well with salt and black pepper, and cook on low heat till you get a soupy consistency, throw some fresh cilantro leaves in it and take it off the stove.

Served it warm with bell pepper pilafs or any rice of your choice.

Recipe of bell pepper pilaf will be posted soon.  

white beans with pepper pilaf

Sharing this bowl of white beans with the event : MLLA -37 @ Susan’s the well seasoned cook 

Full plate Thursday @ Miz Helen’s country cottage

Hearth and Soul hop 58

Ayesha’s Iftaar Moments

If you like this post then please consider sharing it and do not forget to send me your feedbacks.


  • Reply
    July 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Oh the beans looks really fantastic! It looks so comforting and hearty. I love Middle East cuisines… and this bowl is right up my alley 🙂

  • Reply
    July 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    This looks so wonderful, a well balanced platter with lovely colors.

  • Reply
    July 28, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    This looks wonderful! So hearty n comforting,I would like to curl up with a big bowl full on a cool night 🙂
    US Masala

  • Reply
    July 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and leaving that sweet comment! This looks like a hearty, healthy meal that’s full of flavor…I know it would be a huge hit in my house!

    Also, that plum tatin looks fantastic!

  • Reply
    July 28, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    jus simply perfect…must be delicious…

  • Reply
    July 28, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    delicious flavours looks wonderful

  • Reply
    July 28, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Lovely dish. I am very fond of white beans and enjoy them best in Middle Eastern recipe. Pomegranate juice is a great idea to balance flavors. I wonder if I could use tamarind? Do you think it would work, too? I know it’s not used in Middle Eastern dishes as pomegranate is, but it does have that vague, tartness to it.

    Thank you, Sukanya, for your fine MLLA dish. I look forward to reading about your pilaf soon.

  • Reply
    Sanjeeta kk
    July 29, 2011 at 12:12 am

    Love the combination of beans and the pilaf! Both look yum.

  • Reply
    July 29, 2011 at 1:12 am

    There are so many bean dishes available and they all look so delicious .. and you right .. pure soul food! This is really making me hungry.

  • Reply
    July 29, 2011 at 10:12 am

    This is such a lovely dish and the combination of beans with pilaf make a complete protein which is an added bonus. Your photos make this very appealing and the dish looks delicious. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

    • Reply
      July 29, 2011 at 1:21 pm

      Thanx a lot Mary that you have liked the post as well as the pics…I personally like the pilafs very much

      @sanjeetha its great to have you here, welcome dear

      @ Susan it just struck my mind that I can use pom juice too to balance the flavour, I have tried sweet tamarind before and they bring out absolutely new flavour and taste to the dish, its great to have u here.

      @ Faith I am so glad that u liked it

  • Reply
    Priya (Yallapantula) Mitharwal
    July 29, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Absolutely love the white bean curry recipe and pic both 🙂

  • Reply
    Melynda@Moms Sunday Cafe
    July 30, 2011 at 2:42 am

    I also love those white beans! Your middle eastern beans look stunning, Thanks for sharing with the Hearth n Soul hop.

  • Reply
    Umm Mymoonah
    July 31, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    This is just popping out of the screen, fantastic pictures. Thank you for sending it to Iftar Moments 🙂

  • Reply
    Miz Helen
    August 1, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Hello! It is so good to see you again, I have missed you! What a beautiful recipe, I can almost taste it and can’t wait to try it. Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and hope to see you again real soon. Hope you are having a great week!
    Miz Helen

  • Reply
    August 10, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    I like how you added the pomegranate juice – what a great idea!

  • Reply
    August 11, 2011 at 6:43 am

    Nani is a huge fan of beans of any sort. Pune gave me a through experience of white beans and now this dish sounds tempting to me. Nice recipe Sukanya! 😀

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