Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Meat-free Mashawa (Afghan Spicy Beans)

This month I am experimenting with recipes from Afghanistan. Every month on Gormadize, I take a country which was requested by a reader and I go on a quest to discover their traditional dishes and cooking methods. Of course, making everything vegan means that I can't always do things the traditional way, but I learn a lot of new things along the way.

I was really excited when an anonymous reader suggested Afghanistan, as I adore middle eastern food and any excuse to cook more of it if fine by me. I was also intrigued because most of the middle eastern food I have eaten has been either Lebanese, Turkish or Iranian. So Afghanistan was quite an unknown for me. I found some absolutely amazing looking recipes online - especially the sweets, oh my! I think that I could eat Afghan sweets forever, stay posted for some amazing recipes!

I'm starting off with a savoury dish. This is Mashawa, well a vegan version. It would traditionally be made with red meat and served with yoghourt. But I have to say I didn't feel that this vegan version needed anything! It was exceptional, and very easy to make. The main thing you have to remember is to soak the bean for 24 hours beforehand. You can also use canned beans in this recipe, however, if you do you will need to add them much later in the cooking process which means they won't absorb as much of the flavour.

Why Soak Beans for 24 hours?
Soaking dried beans is important for two reasons. Firstly it allows them to absorb a lot of the water they need before you put them in your cooking. This means they won't absorb all of the liquid that you put in your dish and leave you with a dry pot! Soaking them in cold water also means that they will absorb the liquid more evenly and are less likely to split open when cooked.

Secondly, it makes beans much easier for your system to digest. This is where the 24 hours comes in. Most recipes will recommend you to soak beans overnight. Some even claim you can take a shortcut by soaking them in warm water for a couple of hours. These methods will take care of the water absorption, mentioned above. The reason we need to leave them to soak for 24 hours is because after that amount of time they begin to start their germination process, not so much that they become sprouts, just enough to make them easier for you to digest. This will also make the beans much less likely to give you flatulence.

The the great thing about using dried soaked beans is that you cook them in with your dish, as opposed to tinned beans which are already cooked and get added in at the end of cooking. This means that dried beans absorb more of the tasty flavours of your dish. They'll taste better!

*Bean Soaking Tips*
~ Soak your beans in bulk as soon as you buy them. After soaking for 24 hours (or even a bit more) in cold water, drain them and put them in a ziplock bag. Get as much air out as you can and put the bag in the freezer. They are now ready to use as you need them.
~ Buying dried beans is much more cost effective than buying tinned beans. E.g. A can of tinned chickpeas costs about $1.5-$2, depending on the brand. They're about 400g which will give you about 1 1/2 cups of chickpeas. A bag of 375g dried chickpeas costs me $1.29. Once they are soaked they give about 5 cups of chickpeas.
~ If you are soaking your beans in hot weather it is advisable to leave them in the fridge. If the weather is cool then you can just leave them out on the bench.
~ If you use tinned beans it is important to rinse them first.
~ Buying tinned beans means you have no control over how long they have been soaked before they were cooked, which means they may be harder for you to digest and cause more flatulence

Afghan Mashawa
Adapted from

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (more or less, depending on your preferred level of hot)
6 cups vegetable broth (or use vegetable based beef stock, such as Massel)
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dried mung beans
2 cups pre-soaked kidney beans (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
2 cups pre-soaked chickpeas (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
2 tbsp dried or fresh dill

To Make:
1. Heat the oil in a large pot and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and salute for a further 2 minutes.
2. Add the dried coriander, pepper and chilli to the pot. Stir well and cook for 1 minute.
3. Add the tomato paste, vegetable stock and mung beans to the pot. Bring to the boil.
4. Lower the heat and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add the chickpeas and kidney beans and simmer for 30-35 minutes, or until the beans are cooked through. They will have absorbed a lot of the broth.
6. Add the dill and season to taste with salt (or soy sauce if you prefer). Simmer uncovered for another 8-10 minutes. Serve.

Serves 4, ideal with some crusty bread. Also perfect to bring to a potluck or family dinner.


  1. Wow this was so good!! I wish you could post up more receipes from this country!

  2. This was delicious! The first time i used canned beans but it was yummy anyway. I soaked dried ones yesterday and will try again today. :-)
    Would love to see more vegan afghan recipes!

  3. Looking to collect vegan/vegetarian bean dishes from all member countries of the UN. Thanks so much for posting this Afghan recipe and suggestions on cooking with dried beans! Will try it this week,