Black-Eyed Peas in an Indian Curried Soup

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Black-Eyed Peas in an Indian Curried Soup

I've recently had the pleasure of working with an Indian lady on a temporary assignment at my workplace who, apart from being an extraordinarily kind and gentle woman of many other interests, is a vegetarian who regularly cooks traditional Indian meals for her family. Imagine my own delight when she brought in little gifts of her fine food and her many suggestions and observations after discovering my own longstanding fascination with Indian vegetarian cooking!

Although I had already been aware of this aspect of many traditional Indian diets, I was struck by the general taboo against using onions and garlic that she placed on her cooking. This proscription, it was explained to me, is maintained by many Indians for the purpose of avoiding impurities that affect the body's balance and hence spiritual meditation. I am not Hindu of course, but I was not altogether surprised by this explanation after a bit of reflection, for as much as I enjoy the flavors of onions and garlic, there is a quality to them that I feel compelled to avoid for a while after eating too many. And as much as I enjoy eggs and cheese, I similarly feel the need to eat a mostly vegan diet for a few days if I've overindulged.

… Which got me to thinking. I found that my husband was skeptical on the subject, but then I should not have been surprised — he has that typical male aptitude for being internally insensitive, for all his other fine qualities. Still, I decided that there could be no harm in following some Indian sensibilities at least when it comes to Indian food, and resolved that I would make more of an effort to substitute onions and garlic with asafetida as do many Indian vegetarians. A very potent and pungent powder made from the dried resin of the stem and roots of a giant fennel plant that grows in Iran, Afghanistan and the Kashmir region of India, asafetida — also called "hing" — is a staple in many Indian kitchens for its alleged anti-flatulent properties and for the flavors of onion and garlic that it imparts to food when fried quickly in hot oil or ghee. So strong it is that a pinch will do for any recipe, so a tin will last you ages. Every Indian grocery will carry it. I'll still use onions and garlic in other cuisines like Mediterranean where it would be unthinkable to do without, and will continue to use them in my Indian dishes, but Indian dal and vegetable cooking is perfectly suited to using asafetida, and I will continue to adjust recipes accordingly.

As it turned out, I had already planned on making this curried black-eyed pea soup with onions and garlic when the thought came to me, and it was but a matter of moments to make the substitution. A very light, fragrant and colorful soup perfect for lunches or small dinners, I did not miss the onions and garlic at all — in fact, I'm convinced that the asafetida is what made it perfect.

Black-Eyed Peas in an Indian Curried SoupBlack-Eyed Peas in an Indian Curried Soup
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on June 24, 2008

Light, fragrant and colorful curried black-eyed pea soup that's simple to make

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

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  • 1 cup dried black-eyed peas (3 cups cooked or 2 14 oz cans)
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida
  • small handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • Rinse the black-eyed peas and soak for 6 hours or overnight in several inches of water. Drain and rinse, then transfer to large saucepan and cover with 2 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil, skimming off the foam. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the beans are plump and tender — about 30 to 40 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, toast the ground coriander and cumin in a small unoiled frying pan over medium-low heat until the spices darken a couple of shades and acquire a smoky fragrance. Remove from heat and set aside.

  • When the black-eyed peas are cooked, stir in the toasted spices along with the tomatoes, turmeric and cayenne. Bring to a boil again, then reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered for 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice.

  • Heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. When hot, toss in the mustard seeds and asafetida and quickly stir until the seeds begin to turn grey and splutter, a few seconds. Quickly remove from heat and mix into the soup.

  • Let the soup simmer for a couple more minutes to let the flavors mingle, then stir in the fresh cilantro and salt to taste.

  • Serve hot in warmed bowls with hot white rice and fresh greens on the side.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Black-Eyed Peas in an Indian Curried Soup


Johanna GGG said...

I've never used asafoetida - I like my onions and garlic in cooked meals (not keen on raw onion thought). I love my garlic and don't want to give this up. I know if I bought a tin it would be just cluttering up my shelves and not used much - but some recipes it makes sense and tempts me!

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

I belong to a south Indian vegetarian community that traditionally does not use onion or garlic. We use asafetida quite a bit.
I, personally, like onions but we are not very fond of garlic. In fact, I've never bought garlic and use a readymade paste, in very small quantities, for recipes that cannot do without it.:)

Fitness Foodie said...

That sounds delicious and I bet it smells great. Love the spices in this soup.

Anonymous said...

Well, now I really must get that spice at one of the Indian markets here in the city! The soup sounds lovely--as does your co-worker! But I must admit, I never do feel as if I've eaten too many onions or garlic ;)

karuna said...

my husband loves black-eyed pea curry. we make it a lot.nice recipe

Hetal said...

the soup looks gr8...Check out my blog for a sweet surprise

Ivy said...

Lisa your curried black-eyed peas look delicious. I am just beginning to understand a few things about Indian cuisine and until now I thought that curry was just the spice we buy in supermarkets. I am sure that the addition of all these spices will be much better than using the ready made one. I sure would like to make this recipe but maybe after summer.

Lisa Turner said...

Ivy, I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have should you start cooking Indian dishes.

Cynthia said...

I've never used asafoetida in dhal before. Will definitely give it a try.

Anonymous said...

Yummy recipe, thanks. I'm writing this in between mouthfuls. It reminds me a lot of a rasam recipe I love to cook from this book. The main difference is that the rasam uses toor dhal instead of black-eyed beans, and is soured with tamarind instead of lemon.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

i bought myself a back of black eyed beans! this is a perfect recipe to make something with that bag!

Unknown said...

At an Indian store, you can also ask for "hing"... a lot easier to pronounce. It is not used at all in some regions, but my mother in law too includes it in almost every dish she makes. She says it is a digestive aid, hence used every time with lentils and beans. :)

bookgirlforlife said...

The problem most people have gas when eating beans and legumes is due to the fact that they don't eat them often enough. When beans are eaten on a regular basis as they should the gut develops the digestive enzimes necessary for easy digestion. We have been vegeterians for over 17 years and no one in our family has any issues with it. I only say this because some people stay away from great recepis like this for that reason only what a shame.