Navarathri, round the corner, brings memories of golu and sundal. For the uninitiated, golu (in Tamil) is the multistep display of idols and toys by Hindu communities in south India that depict stories or scenes from Hindu mythology, historical events, everyday events like kitchen scenes or weddings. Modern-day golus also display LEGO and Barbie doll collections.
Growing up, nine days of Navarathri meant nine days of prasadam, one sweet and one savoury, for guests. And the savoury prasadam is almost always sundal. Sundal is a kind of simple warm salad (for want of a better explanation) made with cooked beans or lentils. I remember my grandmother would stock up on all the bean varieties just before Navarathri, and, without fail, soak one variety overnight so it was ready to be cooked in the morning. I appreciate the simplicity of this prasadam, which would have been a blessing for the woman of the household, with dozens of other festive chores being added to her daily routine.
Sundal can be made using chana dal (my favourite), lobia, chickpeas, kala chana, rajma, green moong, dried peas, peanuts, or the subject of today’s column, double beans. These large beans, cooked to a buttery texture, well-coated with seasoning and fresh coconut, make for a delightful sundal prasadam.
The fresh double beans with a stunning pink and white colour come into season in Bengaluru around January, but the dried ones are available in supermarkets all year long. They are mostly white in colour when dried, or a stunning maroon speckled on white variety (aptly called Christmas lima beans) that grew in my kitchen garden a few years ago. I had a bumper harvest and the kilograms of dried double beans harvested were saved in the freezer. I continue to use them. They are available canned in the US and Europe but it’s not a big hassle to cook from the dried beans, which can be soaked overnight and pressure-cooked briefly.
In everyday Indian cooking, nutritious double beans can be used in several dishes, starting with a basic sundal in which cooked double beans are tossed in a simple tempering of hing (asafoetida), mustard seeds, dried red chillies and curry leaves with a generous sprinkling of fresh coconut.
Double bean masala (curry), in a tomato-onion gravy or kurma, can be served with rotis, dosas, appams or rice.
These can be used to bulk up recipes like stews, soups, pasta, even pav bhaji, where some (or all) of the mashed potato can be replaced with mashed cooked beans.
Cooked double beans can also amp up the protein and fibre content of pulaos and khichdis.
You can also try the classic Native American dish succotash, which has the trifecta of beans, corn and squash. Lima beans are also used in Kentucky burgoo, a meaty stew that uses the bean as its starch component.
Some of the more creative ways to use this humble ingredient:
• Smashed spiced double beans on toast (like avocado on toast)
• Double beans salad with other seasonal ingredients
• Double beans shakshouka
Here are two recipes to get you started:
This sundal has spice powders that make it taste a bit more chatpata than the basic version of sundal.
1 cup dried double beans (soaked overnight)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
Quarter tsp asafoetida
Half tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chill powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp chaat masala
1 tsp anardaana (crushed)
Half tsp black salt
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
A handful of coriander leaves
2 tbsp pomegranate arils
Drain the soaked double beans. Place in a pressure cooker with two and a half cups of water and 1 tsp salt. Pressure- cook on a high flame until the first whistle. Reduce flame and cook for five-six minutes. Double beans do not take very long to cook.
Heat oil in a large pan. Add the asafoetida, turmeric, red chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and chaat masala along with crushed anardana to the pan and stir well. To this, add the cooked and drained double beans, add the black salt and toss well. Cover and cook for four-five minutes to let the spice flavours infuse in the beans. Remove the lid, garnish the double bean sundal with lemon juice, coriander leaves and pomegranate.
Even during festivals, you need some comforting and nutritious dishes that make up for the excesses. This simple and hearty soup is one such dish.
Half cup double beans, soaked overnight
1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp chopped onion (or cabbage)
2-3 tbsp finely chopped carrot
2-3 cloves finely chopped garlic (optional)
200ml tomato purée Tetrapak (or four-five large tomatoes, puréed)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed dried mixed herbs
Half tsp crushed black pepper
A handful of finely chopped basil
Drain the soaked beans. Place in a pressure cooker with one and a half cups of water and half a teaspoon of salt. Pressure-cook on a high flame until the first whistle. Reduce flame and cook for five-six minutes. In a pan, heat the olive oil. Sauté the garlic, onion and carrot with a pinch of salt for three-four minutes, until the veggies have softened. Add the cooked double beans with their cooking water to the pan along with tomato purée and the rest of the ingredients.
Cover and allow to simmer for five-seven minutes. Dilute with water as per desired consistency and bring to a boil again. Serve hot as is or with some croutons or a slice of toasted sourdough bread.
Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer’s latest book is The Great Indian Thali—Seasonal Vegetarian Wholesomeness (Roli Books). She posts @saffrontrail on Twitter and Instagram.