This dish is served at every table in the Caucasus (the border region between Europe and Asia) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is traditionally served in a clay pot with lavash bread along with pickled cabbage and cucumbers. Bakeries also sell bread stuffed with lobio for a delicious snack on-the-go.
- 1 pound dry red kidney beans or cranberry beans*
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup chopped California walnuts
- Pinch of saffron threads, or a pinch of saffron powder
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 bunch fresh mint, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
- 1 tablespoon ground fenugreek**
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 – 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 – 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
*Note: Dried beans make the best stew, but if you don’t have time to soak them, four cans (15 – 16 ounces each) kidney beans, drained and rinsed, may be substituted. Then, rather than bean cooking liquid, use canned vegetable broth to complete the dish.
**Ground mustard seed can be substituted. Fenugreek can be found in ethnic markets.
- Rinse the beans well and put them in a large pot. Add enough water to cover them by about three inches and soak the beans overnight, or for at least 6 - 8 hours.
- Bring the beans to a boil, cover the pan partially, and boil gently until the beans are tender, about 1 hour. Drain the beans in a colander, reserving the cooking liquid. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large, deep pan over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 – 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until soft. Add the drained beans and about 1 1/2 cups of the reserved cooking. Using the flat part of a spatula, or a potato masher, mash some of the beans to a rough paste. Stir well, and repeat the mashing once or twice more. You should have a thick, rustic, stew-like mixture, similar to refried beans. If necessary, add a little more of the cooking liquid to achieve the right consistency. (Any remaining bean cooking liquid may be used in another soup, or a vegetable stock.) Add the walnuts, saffron, cilantro, mint and fenugreek then season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the vinegar and pomegranate molasses and stir well. The beans should have a pleasant sweet and sour balance.
- Serve the stew, directly from the cooking pot if you wish, accompanied by flat bread, or a rustic country bread to mop up the juices.