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.
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
Ayesha’s Iftaar Moments
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