Chora (black eyed beans)

Black eyed beans

Ahhh the humble black eyed beans…brings up visions of right-on vegetarian cafes from the 70s but really they are so lovely and eating them makes me very happy.  In case you have no idea what the heck I’m on about, they are beans that are white beans smaller than kidney beans with a black gash (where it was attached to the pod). As with other lentils, they are a good source of soluble fibre which is helpful in reducing cholesterol.

In the preparation section below, I’ve detailed what to do with some of the ingredients.  These steps are absolutely and completely optional however, they ensure that the ingredients are properly blended and also there are less items to pick out when you are eating. For once  I decided to do the cooking this way rather than throwing the separate ingredients into pot and you know what, hubby said he preferred to have the separate stuff as it let him taste the individual flavours so it’s a matter of personal taste. I do know that if you heat some of the spices, it helps release their flavours and they are not so harsh so if you are after a milder curry, do it just DO IT. Right enough mucking about – here’s the stuff you really want to read.


  • 200g black-eyed beans – soak overnight then cook in a pressure cooker until they are soft but not mushy. The beans should still be holding their shape. Boil in plenty of water and retain that water for later.
  • 2 tbs ground nut oil (tel)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1 tsp mustard / fenugreek seeds mix (rye/methi)
  • Pinch of asafoetida (hing) – optional
  • 2 large onions (dungri) – chopped very finely. Better still whizz them up in your blender. You want them as small as possible
  • 2 large cloves garlic – crushed again very finely (lusan)
  • 2 inches ginger – grated (adu)
  • 1 chili – finely sliced (murcha)
  • 1 stick cinnamon (tal)
  • 5 green cardamon pods (elchi)
  • 5 cloves (lawing)
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 2 large tomatoes / 220g worth. Diced finely
  • 1tsp salt (nimak)
  • 1tsp chili powder (murcha)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (hurder)
  • 1/2 inch jaggery (gaur) or 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 mangosteen flowers (kokum)
  • 6 or 7  curry leaves (limra)
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Coriander for garnish


  • Tomatoes: An optional step is to skin the tomatoes then pulp the flesh before adding to the vagar. An easy way to do this is to place the washed tomatoes into a pan of boiling water then simmer very gently until the skin splits. Take out of the pan and remove the skin (be careful as they may still be hot from water). Then dice very finely removing the central core (i.e. the white bits)
  • Spices: in a frying pan or tawa gently heat the cinnamon, cardamom pods, cloves and peppercorns. When you see a very thin amount of smoke remove from the frying pan. Take the cardamom seeds out of the pulp then pound all the dry cooked ingredients in a pestle and mortar to a fine powder. As I said above, this is an entirely optional step as some prefer to just put the ingredients into the vagar (sauce)
  • Beans: when the beans are cooked, throw the kokum into the beans&water and let this sit for about 10 minutes


  • The first stage is to make the vagar which is then added to the beans/water to cook through
  • In a very large pan, heat the oil over medium heat
  • Add the bayleaves and wait for them to start to brown
  • Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and wait for them to sizzle and pop then add the pinch of asafoetida if using
  • Add the onions and fry for at least 8 mins. Note it takes longer the bigger the pieces. Keep stirring to stop them sticking to the pan
  • Add the ginger, garlic and chili and cook for another 4 minutes
  • Add the chili powder, salt, turmeric and coriander/cumin powder, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns. Keep stirring and cook for 3/4  minutes
  • Add the jaggery/sugar and wait for it to melt into the vagar
  • Blend in the tomatoes and curry leaves. Cook for about 1 minute
  • The vagar is now ready. Mix in the beans plus all the water they cooked in. Also add lemon juice to taste.
  • Cook until the water thickens. Taste to make sure there is enough salt/lemon for your liking
  • Garnish with coriander and serve with plain rice and naan or rotlis

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