Black-eyed bean and coconut curry

Black-eyed bean and coconut curry

Anjum's Indian Vegetarian Feast
Emma Lee

Black-eyed beans are absolutely delicious, delicate but with a distinctive flavour that I prefer to all other beans. They have been part of the Indian diet for thousands of years but I have never seen them on a restaurant menu, which is a pity as they make a lovely, light curry. This recipe is inspired by the West Coast of India. If you don’t love coconut, you can make this without (add water instead, leave out the tamarind and keep the curry quite thick). Serve with Indian bread or a rice pilaf, or plain boiled rice.


Quantity Ingredient
200g dried black-eyed beans, washed well and soaked overnight
salt, to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
1 small-ish onion, finely chopped
2 green chillies, whole but pierced with the tip of a knife
3 fat garlic cloves, peeled
20g root ginger, (peeled weight)
1 large-ish tomato, quartered
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8-1/4 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste
240ml coconut milk
1/3-1/2 teaspoon tamarind paste, or to taste
1/2-3/4 teaspoon garam masala, or to taste
handful coriander leaves, chopped


  1. Drain the soaked beans, tip into a large saucepan and add fresh water to come 5 cm above the level of the beans. Bring to the boil, cover and cook until just soft, around 45 minutes. Salt the beans lightly about 30 minutes into cooking. Remove from the heat and drain, reserving 250–300 ml of the cooking water.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and, once they pop, add the curry leaves and cook for another few seconds. Add the onion and green chillies and cook until the onion is golden brown on the edges.
  3. Meanwhile, blend together the garlic, ginger and tomato until smooth. Add to the cooked onions with the ground cumin and coriander, chilli powder and a splash of water, and season. Cook over a medium-high heat until completely reduced, stirring occasionally to start with, then more as the moisture dries up. Once the masala has released oil back into the pan and tastes harmonious, add the cooked dried beans (or canned beans, if using) and the reserved cooking liquid, or 250–300 ml of water if using canned beans. Bring to the boil and cook until all the moisture in the pot has evaporated, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the coconut milk and enough water to make a creamy curry (around 250 ml), return to a boil and simmer for five minutes for the whole thing to come together. Stir in the tamarind paste and garam masala, adjust the seasoning and serve sprinkled with the coriander.

Forgot to soak overnight?

  • Bring the beans and enough water to cover to the boil, then boil for one minute. Remove from the heat, cover tightly, and let stand for one hour. Drain well and cook as above.
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