Beans and lentils are comfort food, mainly because of their creamy, soft textures once cooked. Just as cocoa adds depth to a mole sauce in Mexican cooking, it works wonders here, bringing complexity, color, and a pleasant, subtle bitterness. The heat of the ground chile and the fragrance of the mace add to the sensory delight of this soup. A cool garnish of creamy yogurt and fresh mint provides a welcome contrast.
¾ cup [135 g] mixed dried beans (such as kidney, black, and cranberry), picked over for stones
¼ cup [50 g] mixed lentils and split peas, picked over for stones
1 tablespoon ghee or extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup [140 g] finely diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chile powder
½ teaspoon ground mace
One 14½ -oz [415 g] can chopped tomatoes, with their juices
4 cups [960 ml] water
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
10 fresh mint leaves
¼ cup [60 g] plain Greek yogurt
Rinse the beans in a fine-mesh strainer under cold running water and transfer to a medium bowl. Cover with 2 in [5 cm] of water and soak overnight. The next day, rinse the beans and lentils in a fine-mesh strainer under cold running water and transfer to a small bowl. Cover with 2 in [5 cm] of water and soak for at least 1 hour before cooking. Drain the beans and lentils.
Heat the ghee in a medium Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds. Stir in the cocoa, coriander, chile powder, and mace and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Pour in the tomatoes and their juices and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the 4 cups [960 ml] water, the beans and lentils, salt and stir. Increase the heat to high and bring to a rolling boil. Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until the beans and lentils are soft and tender, about 1 hour. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
Meanwhile, stack the mint leaves, roll them into a tight cylinder, and cut into thin strips. Serve the soup hot, garnishing each bowl with 1 tablespoon of the Greek yogurt and a few ribbons of mint.
Editors note: we like to use a combination of traditional green lentils and smaller black lentils. While the green variety softens and breaks down when cooked in a soup like this, we cook the black lentils (also known as beluga lentils because the small, shiny beads resemble caviar) in a separate pot until just firm so they retain their shape. Adding them to the soup at the end creates another dimension of flavor and texture. In San Francisco you can find the black beluga lentils in the bulk section at Rainbow Grocery.
Keywords: cocoa lentil bean soup