One of my favorite parts of running this blog is putting up guest posts by some of my favorite people. Dana J. Ardell holds the role of my best buddy but happens to live on the other side of the globe. Remember her from the send off with a shrimp boil and a matching tattoo, a visit to Budapest in 2016, and her straight up drool-worthy last guest post of duck proscuitto?
Being able to pair up on blogs like this (and let’s be real – she just sends me amazingly beautiful photos and recipes, and I copy and paste) has been super fun as it keeps us up on each other’s travels and recipes, so I just LOVE it. With that said, take a gander at this insanely delicious looking recipe that I’ll be trying ASAP. Cheers to good girlfriends and good recipes! Take it away Dana – amazing bean recipe ahead….
I recently traveled to Georgia and experienced an entirely new (to me) culture and place. Really, it was like nowhere I’ve ever been before. Georgia straddles the divide between Europe and Asia and is a truly unique place. You can read more about my trip to Georgia over on my blog.
But, we are here to talk about food and Georgian food was seriously some of the best regional food I have ever had. Local specialties include khinkali (dumplings), khachapuri (a boat-shaped cheese-filled bread topped with a raw egg and a huge pat of butter, which obviously, you then dip the bread in), tomato-cucumber salad with an amazing walnut dressing, and tkemali, also known as Georgian ketchup (a delicious plum-based sauce).
One of my favorite Georgian dishes ended up being a simple bean dish called lobio, which literally means “beans” in Georgian. The dish is served in a traditional clay pot, which we brought home as our one Georgian souvenir thanks to one of our traveling companion’s commitment to finding a way to bring clay dishes home with us. Most of them broke on the way home, but everyone ended up with a few of what they wanted and I ended up with my bean pot.
I followed this recipe for my first attempt at lobio. Following is what worked for me (the original recipe plus my tweaks).
2 cups (400 grams) dried red kidney beans
1 medium white onion
1 tbsp. oil
1 bunch fresh cilantro
3 cloves garlic
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried cumin
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. black pepper
400 grams corn flour
Soak the dried kidney beans overnight. After the beans have soaked, drain them. Add the soaked beans to a pot with the bay leaves and a good sprinkling of salt. Cover the beans with plenty of water and cook until soft over medium heat. (Note: Don’t drain the water! More on that later.) You’re going to mash these up later, so make sure they’re soft enough to mash.
Meanwhile, chop the onion and sautee in the oil until soft. Remove from heat and set aside.
Combine fresh cilantro, garlic (I added an extra clove of garlic beyond what the original recipe called for because at minimum, you have to add at least one extra clove to whatever a recipe calls for, right?), salt, pepper, cumin and fenugreek (the original recipe calls for blue fenugreek, which I couldn’t find, so I used the yellow-ish standard variety) in a mortar. Combine and crush with a pestle. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, a food processor will work just fine.)
After your beans are cooked, drain them, but be sure to SAVE the cooking water! (I HATE when I accidentally drain something and then read later that I was supposed to reserve the water.)
Put the drained beans back in the pot and add the sauteed onion and crushed up cilantro/herb goodness.
Mash it all up together. (I used a potato masher, which worked great.) Now, add that bean juice you saved (300 ml or about 10 ounces of it) into the bean mixture and mash and mix that in with everything else. (I used the amount of liquid that the recipe called for and they were a bit dry, so I’ve upped the liquid amount here. Just remember that they’re just beans and they can be as dry or as wet as you want, so be bold and do your own thing here.)
Now, I’m going to assume most people don’t have a Georgian bean pot sitting around their kitchen, so if you don’t, just throw the pot of everything back on medium heat for 5-6 minutes until it’s hot and bubbly. If you have a bean pot, fill it with beans and put it in the oven until warm and bubbling (start at a low temperature like 200 degrees Fahrenheit and raise the temp over the next few minutes so as not to destroy your beautiful clay pot).
This is best served with mchadi, which is Georgian cornbread, and it’s so simple, you barely need a recipe. Measure out 400 grams of corn flour (or masa harina if you don’t mind a dash of lime). And, no, I’m not converting this to cups for you because I now believe everyone should have a kitchen scale, so if you don’t have one, go get one…or find an online conversion calculator. Add 1 cup of cold water to start and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mix together. If the corn flour seems too dry to form into cohesive balls, add some more water. I ended up using about 1 3/4 cups water in total. Once you can shape it into a ball, you’ve added enough water. Form a ball of dough and then flatten it on a cutting board or flat surface with your hands. I poked a little hole in the middle of mine with my finger because that’s what they looked like in Georgia. Heat a pan over medium heat with some oil (I used sunflower oil because it’s the most common oil where I live) and add your shaped dough to the pan. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes (until golden brown). Then, uncover the pan (and watch out for splattering condensation hitting the oil!), flip the dough and cook uncovered for another 5 minutes (or until golden brown). Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and you’re ready to eat!
I would also recommend making pickled vegetables to serve alongside this. In Georgia, our lobio was typically served with pickled carrots, hot peppers and some kind of shrub that reminds me of capers. Here’s a good guide on how to quick pickle vegetables.