Mauritian Bean Curry Recipe - With Old Style Flavour
One upside to the current situation with Coronavirus is that I have been at home more and so have my parents. I had to postpone my visit to Mauritius but I have been talking to them on FaceTime more often.
During one conversation when we were talking about times of crisis, my father told me about a dish his mother used to make during tough times and how good it was. They make a type of curry in Mauritius with butter beans and vegetables called “Cari Gros Pois.” It is often served with a flatbread known as Dal Puri and is one of my favourite things to eat.
My father remembered his mother making large amounts of the curry (they had a big family as well as people often dropping in) and adding goats’ trotters to it, creating something that he remembered as delicious. It is important to remember that in those days they would use every bit of the animal. He remembered how she would singe the trotters over hot charcoal to remove any remaining bits of hair on them. It got me thinking that the smokiness from the charcoal would add to the flavour.
I decided to give it a try. I asked my butcher what would be a good substitute for goat feet and she had some marrow bones that she suggested that I try. I wasn’t sure when to add the bones to the curry to get the maximum flavour out of it so I decided to make a stock and then use that as the base for my curry.
We had no charcoal in the house but when looking around a Greek wholesale shop, I found some charcoal that was labelled as for use for hookah or shisha (water pipe) smoking. The packet was small and suited my need for 1 piece much better than buying a large bag.
I made a stock by placing the bones in a pressure cooker and cooking it for about an hour. It turned out to be a wonderfully gelatinous stock. Once the stock cooled and I removed the fat from the top of it, I followed my aunt’s recipe using the stock instead of water.
After cooking the dish, I decided to add some smokiness by using a technique I learned in India. A piece of folded foil is placed on top of the curry, then the charcoal is heated over a gas flame until very hot. The next step is to carefully place the charcoal on top of the foil and drizzle it with a little melted ghee and once it starts smoking, quickly put the lid on so that the smoke gets infused into the food.
My efforts worked a treat! The curry was rich and flavourful with that extra smoky bit, the taste and texture took me back to Mauritius.
Here is the basic recipe for you. Let me know if you have any questions and please feel free to share.
About 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I usually use rice bran oil)
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 golden shallot, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon garlic paste
2 green chillies, sliced
1 large tomato, chopped
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 golf ball size piece of tamarind pulp
2 carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
2 eggplants, cut into finger sized pieces (I usually use the long, thin Asian ones)
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 3 cm pieces
100g Lima Beans or Great Northern Beans if Lima Beans are not available
2 tablespoons Mauritian Curry Powder (If a Mauritian Curry Powder is not available, a Malaysian one of a Madras Style one will work.
1 tablespoon garam masala (I use my own, please ask for recipe if you want it)
I litre lamb broth, beef broth or water
1 cup water for tamarind
Salt to taste
Coriander or mint leaves for garnish
Soak beans in water overnight and then pressure cook or boil in water until tender. Drain.
Place tamarind pulp in 1 cup warm water and massage to extract the flavour. Drain and keep “water.”
Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan and sear eggplant until pieces are lightly browned.
Heat oil in a heavy-based pot, add mustard seeds and allow to pop. Stir and add cumin seeds, then sliced shallot. Stir until shallot becomes translucent, then add ginger, garlic and green chilli. Stir until raw garlic smell has disappeared.
Add tomatoes and salt and cook, stirring often until oil begins to separate from the remainder of the mixture or until a paste has formed.
Add curry powder, stir well and add tamarind water. Stir and allow to cook for about 2 minutes.
Add carrots, potatoes, stock and beans. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook at a low heat until vegetables are nearly cooked through. Add eggplant pieces and garam masala and cook for about two minutes. Check for salt and garnish.
If you would like to add an old style, smoky flavour to it, please follow the following instructions.
Place a folded piece of foil on top of the bean curry. Place a piece of charcoal on a gas flame until very hot, then, using tongs, carefully place the charcoal on top of the foil. Drizzle about a teaspoon of melted ghee directly onto the charcoal. It will immediately start smoking. Cover pot quickly and allow smoke to infuse for about five minutes. Using tongs, remove charcoal and foil from pot and serve.