Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook
Essays | Recipes | Gallery

Food for the Sufis
Bawa Muhaiyaddeen cooked for his students with whatever food was at hand, adding generous spoonsful of love and South Asian spices. This is a scaled-down version of a 15-gallon vegetable stew prepared by Bawa in 1979.
Soaking: Overnight
Total second-day time: 1-½ hours
1 cup dried white beans
8 cups water
¼ cup cooking oil
1 cup coarsely chopped onions
2 cups potatoes, quartered lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup cabbage, finely chopped
½ cup cauliflower, finely chopped
1 cup carrots, quartered lengthwise the thinly sliced crosswise
½ cup green beans, trimmed and cut into ½" pieces
1 cup tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup bell peppers, coarsely chopped
½ cup lima beans
½ cup shelled peas
¼ tsp. cardamom
½ tsp. cayenne
¼ tsp. cinnamon
A pinch of ground cloves
½ tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. ground ginger
1 tbsp. salt
¼ tsp. turmeric
4 tbsp. cooking oil
¼ tsp. cumin seeds
¼ tsp. fennel seeds
¼ tsp. fenugreek seeds
¼ tsp. black mustard seeds
2 tbsp. finely chopped onion
1 chili pepper, finely chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tbsp. lemon juice

The night before cooking, cover the white beans with water and let soak overnight.

Drain the beans and place in a pot with 8 cups of cold water, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until cooked through, about 1-½ hours. Remove any loosened skins that have floated to the top of the water, then drain and set aside.

After the beans have been cooking for 45 minutes, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, add the onions and sauté until they are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions to a large heatproof mixing bowl, and place the bowl in a slightly warmed oven. Briefly sauté the potatoes in the reserved oil, then add ½ cup water and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the lima beans and peas and continue to simmer until they and the potatoes are cooked through, about 7 minutes. Drain the vegetables, reserving the water; add them to the bowl with the onions, and return the bowl to the oven. Add another ¼ cup of oil to the pot, and sauté the cabbage, cauliflower, carrots for about 10 minutes, until they are just cooked. Using a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables to the bowl, and return the bowl to the oven. Sauté the green beans, tomatoes and bell peppers until they are just cooked, then remove them to the mixing bowl.

To make the sauce, combine the powdered spices in a small bowl and set aside. Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan or wok over medium heat, add the seed spices and stir constantly until they begin to pop. Add the onion and chili pepper and sauté for another 5 minutes, until the onions become translucent. Add the powdered spices, stir well to distribute them over the onions, lower the heat and cook for several minutes. Blend together the tomato paste, the reserved cooking water, and enough hot water to make ¾ cup liquid. Pour this into the pan with the spices, stir well, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and enough hot water to make a sauce the consistency of thick gravy. Cook for another 10 minutes, adding water as necessary.

Remove the mixing bowl from the oven. Toss the vegetables together, pour over the sauce, toss again and transfer to a serving dish. Serve with rice.