Serves 6

This soup was inspired by Kali Dal, a special dish from the northern part of India, made from tiny black beans named after the goddess Kali. Before you are ready to begin cooking, ask the children to sort the beans, picking out rocks and broken beans.

The spices used in Indian cooking are chosen to balance each other. A fun way to prepare the spices for this soup is to start with whole spices and to grind them with a mortar and pestle. Everyone will enjoy the sweet and complex aromas that are released from the coriander, cinnamon and cardamom during the grinding process. Ask your children if they can guess what part of the plant these spices come from. Coriander and cardamom are seeds. Cinnamon is the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree.

  • 2 cups black beans
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 white onion, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon cumin seed
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tomatoes, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup whipping cream, optional
  • 2 tablespoons minced cilantro
  • Sort and cook the beans

Sort the beans, removing any stones and broken beans. Rinse the beans and put them into a large pot and add the water. Bring to boiling over high heat. Skim off any foam that appears and discard. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, partially covered, until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. If needed, add water to keep the beans covered as they cook.

Note: You can soak the beans prior to cooking, but I have found that the skins of black beans separate if the beans are soaked, so I don’t recommend it. Black beans cook nicely in a pressure cooker.

Sauté the spices and vegetables

In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and cumin seed. Cook, stirring often, until the spices are fragrant and the onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and salt to the onion mixture and cook until the tomatoes become soft, about 5 more minutes. Stir in the coriander, cardamom and cinnamon. Remove from heat.

Finish the soup

When the beans are cooked through and tender, stir in the vegetable and spice mixture and the cream, if using. Warm the soup over low heat only until hot. Taste for seasoning and stir in the cilantro. Ladle into bowls. Serve this soup with freshly baked flatbreads or steaming basmati rice.



© Lynn Walters 2001