This recipe is adapted from a red kidney bean curry by one of my food heroes, and 'the godmother of Indian cooking', Madhur Jaffrey. It never ceases to amaze me how delicious and savoury this meal is, being comprised of essentially just beans, tomatoes and a few spices. Well, quite a lot of spices, actually. As with many curry recipes, the ingredients list is quite long but the method is very simple. I would recommend measuring out all the ingredients that are added to the curry at the same time into bowls, which will make things easier.

You can make this recipe with canned black beans, although the result will be inferior. Another important thing to note is the use of fresh curry leaves: make every effort to source these if you can, they bring a wonderful nutty flavour to the dish and in my opinion are essential. Dried curry leaves make a poor substitute.

Black Bean Curry Recipe


  • 225 g dried black turtle beans, (or 3 x 400 g tins)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp whole brown mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 generous pinch asafetida
  • 15 fresh curry leaves
  • 3 medium tomatoes, coarsely grated or blended
  • ¼ tsp ground tumeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 red chillies, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tsp fresh root ginger, grated to a pulp
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1.5 tsp salt


  1. Firstly, soak the beans: cover generously with cold water and leave to soak overnight (you don't need to do this if you're using canned beans). Drain the next day, put in a medium-large pan, cover with water by about 1 inch and bring to the boil. Partially cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 2-2.5 hours or until the beans are tender. You may need to top up with water occasionally to ensure the beans are covered.

  2. Meanwhile, pour the olive oil into a medium pan and set over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and asafetida. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the curry leaves and tomatoes. Stir once, then add the turmeric, coriander, cumin, chillies, garlic, ginger, sugar and salt. Stir and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

  3. When the beans are tender, pour the spiced tomato mixture into the pan with the beans. If you're using tinned beans, drain them and then add to the pot, topping up with water so they're just covered. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, on a very low heat, for 20 minutes.