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Gentle Beans


New York author Rynn Berry is so intent on researching vegetarianism that he lived for three months with a Jain family in Bombay.

The most distinctive feature of the Jain religion, founded in the 6th Century BC by an elder contemporary of the Buddha, is its single-minded devotion to the principle of ahimsa (non-injury to animate beings). This has made the Jains India's most rigorous vegetarians. Their regime even prohibits eating root vegetables, for fear some tiny animal might be injured when the roots are pulled from the earth. Jain dishes must be eaten within 24 hours of preparation because of the danger of consuming microorganisms that would start to appear in them.

Two dishes from Berry's Jain hostess, Shakuntala Jain, appear in his book, "Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes" (Pythagorean Publishers: $14.95). They are dal bhaat (rice with lentils) and spiced green beans. Both are in the chapter devoted to Mahavira, the founder of Jainism.


Jain food "has a reputation for being among the most exquisite of Maharashtran cuisines," says Berry. (Maharashtra is the Indian state in which Bombay is located.) Although Jains cannot season with onion and garlic, the cooking is not flat-tasting. "They compensate in other ways," Berry says. "They are expert in spicing." Oddly, Jains are willing to use ginger, although it too is a root crop. Only dried ginger is allowed, however.


1 cup moong dal (mung beans)


1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon dry ginger

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon white pepper

Large dash asafoetida

1 tomato, chopped, optional

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

Chopped cilantro

Cooked basmati rice

Clean and pick over dal by hand. Rinse dal and place in pot. Add 4 1/2 cups water, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer over medium heat until dal begins to disintegrate.

Use fork or spatula to mash dal until consistency of thick soup. Add coriander, ginger, turmeric, garam masala, pepper, asafoetida and tomato. Season to taste with salt. Cook 5 minutes longer. Add more water if mixture becomes too thick. Consistency should be soft.

Heat oil in small pan. Add cumin seeds. When seeds begin to splutter, remove pan from heat and quickly pour over cooked dal. Garnish with cilantro. Serve over hot basmati rice. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Each of 4 servings contains about:

246 calories; 599 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 34 grams carbohydrates; 13 grams protein; 2.88 grams fiber.


1/2 pound green split peas

1/4 pound orange lentils

1 1/2 large onions, quartered

4 stalks celery, including leaves, rinsed and chopped

2 tomatoes, peeled

2 leeks, white part only, cut into 1-inch chunks

Water, about 5 cups

1/4 pound butter or soy margarine

Crushed black peppercorns

Sea salt

Place split peas, lentils, onions, celery, tomatoes and leeks in large pot and cover with water. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer about 1 1/2 hours, until split peas and lentils are soft. Add butter and stir until melted. Add peppercorns and sea salt to taste. Makes about 10 servings.

Each serving contains about:

222 calories; 148 mg sodium; 25 mg cholesterol; 10 grams fat; 26 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 2.07 grams fiber.

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