This dish is served at every table in the Caucasus (the border region between Europe and Asia) for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- 1 pound red kidney beans or cranberry beans*, dry
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, large, finely chopped
- 1 cup California walnuts, chopped
- Pinch of saffron threads, or a pinch of saffron powder
- 1 bunch cilantro, fresh, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 bunch mint, fresh, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
- 1 tablespoon fenugreek**, ground
- 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 to 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 to 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 to 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.