A New Year’s Day Tradition

It turns out that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is believed to bring lots of prosperity and good fortune. I learned about this tradition recently while listening to my favorite radio show. Apparently, it’s a long-standing custom in the southern US to begin the new year with lucky foods like black-eyed peas and collard greens. So, now that I know that one of my favorite legumes not only has health benefits but can also bring good luck, I’m excited to start a new New Year’s Day tradition. I’ll be serving up some delicious Maharashtrian Chawlichi Usal with steamed brown basmati rice for dinner on the first day of 2022!

Maharashtrian Chawlichi Usal

Regional Variations of Black-eyed Peas Stew in India 

Chawlichi Usal is a traditional Maharashtrian stew that I enjoyed frequently while growing up in India. Black-eyed peas, known as ‘chawli’ in my mother tongue, Marathi, or ‘lobia’ in Hindi, are a common legume used in kitchens all over the country.

Maharashtrian Chawlichi Usal

In the northern parts of India, lobia curry is typically made with a tomato-onion base, while in the south, you’ll find a spicy onion-coconut-based ‘vellapayar’ curry. In the eastern region, a milder version is prepared using the classic Bengali ‘panch phoran’ (a blend of five spices) and often includes squash or potatoes. In the western states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat, the stews tend to have a sweeter profile due to the addition of jaggery along with other spices.

My Recipe for Chawlichi Usal

My go-to recipe for using these beans is in the form of the traditional Maharashtrian ‘usal’ [oo-sal] that I grew up watching my mom make. I also like to enhance its flavors by adding some ready-to-use, pre-washed baby spinach or power greens that I usually keep handy in my refrigerator. This dish is not only a healthy and comforting stew or curry made with black-eyed peas but also incredibly versatile.

Maharashtrian Chawlichi Usal

It pairs wonderfully with steamed rice, whole wheat rotis, gluten-free jwarichi bhakris (sorghum flour flatbread), or bajrichi bhakris (pearl millet flatbread). I even love to spoon it over cooked quinoa for a hearty lunch or dinner. You can also have it as a thick soup, with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt and a crusty sourdough bread on the side to dip in. Whether enjoyed as a side dish, a main course, or simply paired with your favorite type of bread, this rustic black-eyed peas stew is a wholesome and adaptable recipe that can suit a variety of dietary preferences and meal occasions.

Health Benefits of Black-eyed Peas

Now, I’m not superstitious, but it seems like a great idea to kick off the year with legumes in every way! Black-eyed peas are packed with health benefits, being rich in protein and fiber, making them an ideal choice for starting the year on a healthy note after indulging in holiday feasts. Adding greens to my recipe gives the dish a vitamin boost, which can be particularly beneficial for your immune system, especially during cold and flu season.

Maharashtrian Chawlichi Usal

Moreover, a spicy and hearty stew makes for a comforting meal on the first day of the year, especially during the chilly winter season. So, join me in starting a new tradition by preparing a delicious pot of Chawlichi Usal to welcome the new year! I have outlined step-by-step details below that you can follow and easily whip up this signature concoction in your own kitchen.

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Maharashtrian Chawlichi Usal 


  • Author: Vasanti

Description

An elevated recipe for Maharashtrian-style Indian black-eyed peas stew, enriched with kala/goda masala, jaggery, and chopped greens.


Ingredients

Scale

For Soaking and Cooking the Beans (see Notes)

  • 3/4 cup (128 g) black eyed peas (chawli/lobia) (see Variations)
  • 3 cups (720 ml) water, divided

For the Curry (see Variations)

  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) neutral oil of choice
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp asafetida
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • Regular Indian red chili powder, to taste
  • 1 tbsp ground jaggery or coconut palm sugar
  • 1 tbsp Maharashtrian Kala/ Goda masala (homemade or store-bought) (see Notes)
  • 23 handfuls of baby spinach or power leafy greens, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp grated fresh or thawed frozen coconut, for garnishing
  • 45 sprigs fresh cilantro/coriander, leaves roughly chopped, for garnishing

For Serving

  • Steamed brown basmati rice (optional)
  • Yogurt or pickle (optional)

Instructions

  • Soak the black-eyed peas beans in 1 ½ cups (360 ml) of water for 4-6 hours, or up to overnight.
  • Drain the beans and transfer them to an Instant Pot or pressure cooker insert pan along with 1 ½ cups (360 ml) of water.
  • You can also use another insert pan to cook rice along with the beans. Use 1:1 ratio of white basmati rice :water and 1:1.5 ratio for brown basmati rice :water
  • Add 1 cup of water to the inner pot of the Instant Pot and place the trivet in it. Place the insert pan along with the soaked beans and water over the trivet.
  • If you don’t have an insert pan, you can transfer them directly to the inner pot of the Instant Pot along with 1 ½ cups (360 ml) of water. You don’t need to add the additional 1 cup of water in the above step.
  • Close the Instant Pot’s lid and turn the steam-release valve to the sealing position.
  • Press the Bean/Chili button and set the timer for 25 minutes at high pressure.
  • Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat and when it starts shimmering, add the cumin, and mustard seeds, asafoetida and the turmeric.
  • When the seeds splutter and the spices froth (in about 30 seconds), add in the chopped onion.
  • Sprinkle some salt and sauté the onion for 4-5 mins till it softens and turns translucent.
  • Stir in the red chili powder and the kala/goda masala.
  • Sauté for 30 seconds to let the spices bloom.
  • Add in the cooked black eyed peas along with all the cooking liquid.
  • Season with ground jaggery or coconut palm sugar. Stir to combine.
  • Stir on the chopped leafy greens.
  • Mix well and simmer covered for 10-15 minutes.
  • Once the leafy greens have wilted, it is ready to be served.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro/coriander and grated coconut. Serve hot with steamed rice, yogurt and pickle.

Step-by-Step Details

Step: 1

Soak the black-eyed peas in 1 ½ cups (360 ml) of water for 4-6 hours, or up to overnight.

Step: 2

Drain the beans and transfer them to an Instant Pot or pressure cooker insert pan along with 1 ½ cups (360 ml) of water. You can also use another insert pan to cook rice along with the beans. Use 1:1 ratio of white basmati rice :water and 1:1.5 ratio for brown basmati rice :water Add 1 cup of water to the inner pot of the Instant Pot and place the trivet in it. Place the insert pan along with the soaked beans and water over the trivet. If you don't have an insert pan, you can transfer them directly to the inner pot of the Instant Pot along with 1 ½ cups (360 ml) of water. You don't need to add the additional 1 cup of water in the above step.

Step: 3

Close the Instant Pot’s lid and turn the steam-release valve to the sealing position. Press the Bean/Chili button and set the timer for 25 minutes at high pressure.

Step: 4

When the cooking is complete, allow the pressure to release naturally—which will take 15 to 20 minutes—and then open the lid. Set aside until you are ready to use it. Note that older beans may need longer to cook. If you find that your beans are not soft and haven’t cooked all the way through, close the lid immediately and set the Instant Pot to cook using the Bean/Chili mode for another 10 minutes at high pressure. After the cooking is complete, allow the pressure to release naturally before opening the lid.

Step: 5

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat and when it starts shimmering, add the cumin, and mustard seeds, asafoetida and the turmeric.

Step: 6

When the seeds splutter and the spices froth (in about 30 seconds), add in the chopped onion. Sprinkle some salt and sauté the onion for 4-5 mins till it softens and turns translucent.

Step: 7

Stir in the red chili powder and the kala/goda masala. Sauté for 30 seconds to let the spices bloom.

Step: 8

Add in the cooked black-eyed peas along with all the cooking liquid.

Step: 9

Season with ground jaggery or coconut palm sugar. Stir to combine.

Step: 10

Stir in the chopped leafy greens.

Step: 11

Mix well and simmer covered for 10-15 minutes.

Step: 12

Once the leafy greens have wilted, it is ready to be served.

Step: 13

Garnish with chopped cilantro/coriander and grated coconut. Serve hot with steamed rice, yogurt and pickle.

Recipe FAQ’s and Notes

No time to Soak?

If you don’t have time to soak and cook the beans, you can use a 15.5 oz/439 g can of cooked black eyed peas and follow the rest of the recipe as is.

Some grocery stores also offer frozen or refrigerated cooked black-eyed peas that can be great time savers!

Masala Substitue

If you can’t find Maharashtrian Kala/Goda Masala, use 2 tsp Garam Masala + 1 tsp of desiccated coconut or crushed unsweetened coconut flakes

Recipe Variations

Substitute black-eyed peas with whole red lentils, red moong (adzuki) or whole green moong beans for a change. Follow the steps to soak and cook them before using them to make the stew as per the recipe.

Add in chopped tomatoes after letting the spices bloom and before adding the cooked beans for a subtle tangy flavor. Stir to combine the tomatoes and cook covered on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, till the oil separates out. Then add the cooked beans and follow the rest of the recipe as is.

Add in a desired quantity (up to a 13.5 oz/400 ml can) unsweetened coconut milk to make it a creamy curry.

Happy cooking
Vasanti

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Hi I’m Vasanti
…and I ❤️cooking ‘n clicking!!
I share a modern take on Indian cuisine made using nontraditional techniques and ingredients, while staying true to its authenticity. You’ll also find classic recipes from my beloved Maharashtrian culture and heritage.



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