Creamy Cargamanto Beans in Yogurt

The cargamanto bean. If this is as new to you as it was to us last spring, then you are in for a treat. The grandmother of the more widely known cranberry bean and the Italian borlotti, the cargamanto has a thinner skin and is plumper when cooked than her descendants, so this creamy, buttery bean literally melts on the tongue. Remember the first time your fork broke the tender crumb of a lava chocolate cake — the delight of the molten chocolatey-ness oozing on your plate; it’s like that, but from a bean! True, we are unashamedly bean-heads, so maybe I am waxing a bit poetic. Or maybe you need to try this bean.

The cargamanto hails from Colombia. It is the essential ingredient for Antioquenos Frijoles, the centerpiece of a traditional banquet-style platter known as Bandeja Paisa, which appears to resemble the feijoada of Brazil, or the rijstaffel of Dutch Indonesia in its generous abundance. As you can see, the red cargamanto is a gorgeous deep mahogany, mottled beige or pink near the “eye” of the bean. Unfortunately it loses this beautiful coloring once rehydrated and cooked so that it’s hard to distinguish by eye from other cooked red beans except for its exceptional girth.

But back to the recipe at hand. For this we sought guidance from what might seem like an unexpected source for a South American bean — a South Asian chef. In my book, Indian cooks have the best recipes when it comes to seasoning beans, and in this case Shilpa at Aayi’s Recipes came through for us again. I’ve adapted her recipe for spiced red kidney beans by substituting red cargamanto beans, and by cooking the beans a bit longer in the spices before adding the surprise ingredient, yogurt. We loved the tangy smoothness the yogurt adds. The first time we made this, we had the chickpea flour, or besan, that is called for in the original recipe; in later tries, we substituted fine cornmeal as a thickener with equal success.

Thanks again, Shilpa, for a wonderful recipe that really showcases the creaminess of the lovely cargamanto bean!

We’ve found Goya brand Red Cargamanto Beans at the Lotte Plaza chain of Korean markets, particularly the one in Aspen Hill, MD; and just today located the Goya White Cargamanto Beans at H-Mart in Wheaton.

Adapted from Shilpa’s Rajma with Yogurt on Aayi’s Recipes

16oz/455g dried cargamanto beans, red or white 1 large onion, diced
3 TBL olive oil
5 whole cloves
2 1″ cinnamon sticks
4 green cardamom pods, lightly chrushed
1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper (cayenne) powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
sea salt, to taste
1 tsp garam masala
1-1/2 cup/360g drained, thickened yogurt
2 tsp besan (chickpea flour), or fine cornmeal
small sprig cilantro (garnish)

Pick over and rinse beans. Soak beans 8-12 hours in enough cold water to coer the beans by 2 inches.

Drain beans and rinse.

In large Dutch oven or stock pot, add beans and 4 qt/L cold water and increase to high heat, cover and bring to boil. Turn heat down to medium, and continue at simmer, skimming impurities as they rise to the surface. Simmer for 1-1/2 hour.

Meanwhile heat oil over medium high. Add diced onions and cook until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, red pepper powder, and turmeric, and stir to mix. Heat together for 1 minute.

Add salt and onion/spice mixture to beans. Continue cooking for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a test bean mashes easily with a fork. (If using a smaller bean, such as kidney or borlotti, adjust cooking time.)

Add garam masala, and stir through. Mix together yogurt and besan or cornmeal. Stir into beans, cover, and cook through for 10-15 minutes while table is set. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

A wonderful meal in itself when served with your favorite flat bread — we love this with warm corn tortillas.

Do you love beans, too? How about Cassoulet or Hawaiian-style Portuguese Bean Soup?