Gujarati Tart Pepper
and Black-Eyed Pea Soup
(Sukha Lobbia ka Soop)
Extraordinary as a first course, and pure vegetarian. Visually arresting with those white beans and red bits of pepper and tomato recumbent in a dark brown broth--tart, creamy, and smoky, fragrant with cumin and mustard and, if you can find it, a dash of asafoetida. And all that tamarind--totally stimulating to the palate. Serve hot as a first course to 4-6 people.
1. Soak the beans for several hours or overnight in lots of water. Drain and rinse. Put into a heavy pot with the ginger, chilies, tomato, turmeric, salt, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, seal with aluminum foil, and top with the lid. Let cook for an hour or two.
2. While the soup is cooking, roast the red pepper under the broiler, turning to char the skin on every side. Place in a plastic bag and let the skin steam off for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the bag, peel away the skin, and reserve.
3. When ready to finish the soup, unseal the soup pot and check that the beans are tender. Cut the roasted pepper into cubes and add to the soup. Then Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and cover the pot while they sizzle. Turn the heat to low and stir in the curry leaves (or cilantro), the chickpea flour, the paprika, and the asafoetida. Stir for a minute or two, then whisk in the cup of water and stir into the rest of the soup. Stir in the tamarind, tasting to get the right amount of sourness. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes or more.
4. Ladle into small bowls and serve immediately.