A few years ago I was invited to write about a dine in event organized by a group of people who were providing authentic, regional dining experiences in people’s homes.
The concept was great because it opened up opportunities for food lovers to sample unusual and hyper regional fare that is not usually found in restaurants. And for someone like me who loves to taste the cuisine of various regions, this was a very delightful event indeed.
The meal I partook of, was curated and prepared by a Bengali lady and most of the dishes were new to us and did not consist of the usual items that we were familiar with.
While everything was outstanding, one dish in particular stood out and ironically this was prepared using a vegetable that I had no particular kind feelings towards, courtesy its its weird flavor and strange after taste. However, the transformation that was brought about by the recipe, was remarkable.
It was amazing to realise that this particular vegetable was the main ingredient in the dish and what was even more appealing was the very simplicity of the recipe. Rustic and flavorful, it was explained to us that this was usually prepared in villages and hence not seen too often in mainstream cuisine.
This common vegetable that would never make its way into my shopping basket, suddenly made its way into my heart (and tummy of course) and I told my host that this was the only way I was ever going to eat this again.
I made sure I ate cowpea’ous quantities that day.
Yes it is the humble Cowpea that I am talking about. Botanically known as Vigna unguiculata, it also goes by the names of barbati, lobia beans, long beans, alsandey, yardlong bean etc.
The dish was a type of chutney or maybe Mash would be a more apt description and it was called Barbati Baata (or Borboti as the Bengalis pronounce), where baata is the generic name for something that is ground or mashed.
The cowpea bean or barbati was always treated as the poor cousin of regular beans in my biased home and we would buy it only when we were out of other options in the market. This obviously was due to the aforementioned strange flavor.
Well the dinner changed all of that and suddenly the bean was elevated from it ‘Has Been’ status and great plans were made to give it pride of place at my table.
But then there was a tiny hurdle caused by the fact that I had not managed to get my host to reveal the recipe. But persistence at the feet of Mother Google finally paid off and I located a few versions of it online. While the basic idea was similar, the various recipes had a few differences and by the time I was done with my own enhancements, I had my own version too 😀
So what you will see here may not be an authentic Barbati baata but a much baata version that I have produced 😀
Recipe for Cowpea chutney –
Barbati chutney – Cowpeas (alsande) – 250 gm
Mustard oil – 3 tablespoon
Kalonji – 1 teaspoon
Garlic – 10 cloves
Green chillies – 3
Onion Chopped – 1 tablespoon
Lime juice – 1 tablespoon
Jaggery powder – 2 teaspoon
Salt – 1 teaspoon
Peanuts – 2 tablespoon
Wash and chop the beans into 1 inch pieces. Microwave for 2 minutes or blanch in hot water for 2 minutes and keep aside. Dry roast the peanuts and cool them. Crush coarsely and set aside. You can choose to discard the skin or leave it on. I leave it on.
Heat the mustard oil in a kadai and add kalonji and hing. When the kalonji splutters, add garlic, green chillies and onion. Fry well for 2 minutes.
Add the beans and fry on high heat for 2 minutes. Cover and cook on medium heat till the beans are well done. Uncover and fry on high heat till the beans look dryish.
Add salt, jaggery and lime juice and turn off the heat.
Once it cools to room temperature, grind it coarse in the mixer. Add the peanuts and mix well. This can be had cold like a chutney. It can be refrigerated for 2-3 days in a closed dish.