Curried Red Beans with Carrots and Fennel

Here at Chez Bullhog, we love our beans. As a delicious comfort food, a hearty alternative to meat, or tender nuggets that suck up all kinds of exotic flavoring, they never fail to satisfy. And so when we learned that we could cook them the way people used to do it, with the bean pot right in with the fire, we were smitten.  And oh, the smoky flavor it yields!

The bean pot
The bean pot

It’s like this. When you bring a woodfired oven up to temperature, you’re heating the ceramic bits around the oven, the sand and masonry below it, and the box around it. Plus, there’s insulation to keep in all that heat. So once you’ve got it hot enough to make pizza and bread, your woodfired oven is going to take a while to cool down again. That slowly descending heat is just right for baking beans. 

We’ve found that just about any kind of bean works in the bean pot. We’ve tried at least 10 so far, from lentils to limas, cannellini to kidney, pinto beans to borlottis. They all take on a smoked maturity you can only get with a wood fire. 

To do it right, soak the beans overnight (except lentils), change the water, throw in an onion and some chilis and spices. When your bread is ready to come out or your pizzas are all baked, put the bean pot to one side and let it go for a couple of hours, turning and checking occasionally. Once the beans are cooked through, make additions as I do in the recipe below, and either return the pot to the oven, or finish it inside in a conventional oven. Happy eating! 

Curried Red Beans with Carrots and Fennel

Curried Red Beans 600w

Makes 6 – 8 servings

2 cups small red beans or aduki beans, soaked overnight

5 cups cool water

1 large white onion in 2 halves

2 fennel bulbs

2 large cloves garlic, smashed

1 teaspoon chimichurri or mild chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

2 bay leaves


1 pound fresh carrots, coarsely chopped

Fennel and onion from above

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

2 Tablespoons butter

2 to 3 teaspoons medium curry powder (I used Madras)

2 to 3 teaspoons mild curry powder (I used World Spice Tandoori Spices)

1½ teaspoons salt



  • If using a ceramic pot, soak it for 15 minutes in a plugged sink that has an inch of water in the bottom.
  • If using a well-seasoned cast iron Dutch oven, rub the inside with a tablespoon of oil before putting in the beans.

Cook the beans: Soak the beans overnight in ample water. Drain off the soaking water. Add to the beans 5 cups of fresh water, ½ the white onion in 4 chunks, 1 fennel bulb, halved lengthwise and sliced in 4, the garlic cloves, chimichurri, cumin and bay leaves. Do not add salt yet.

Cover and place the pot 4-6 inches from a low fire and near enough the door to be able to reach in to turn it. You may need to move your fire forward to achieve this. For the remains of a hotter fire (as for pizza), you will need to start the pot farther away from the fire.

Let the beans cook for 2 to 3 hours until cooked through, turning and testing every half hour or so.

Curried Fennel and Carrot 300w

When the beans are cooked, bring the pot inside and set it on a counter near the stove to cool. At this point, you can stop the process if necessary and refrigerate the beans until you are ready for the next step. 

Curry the veggies: Chop the other half of the onion coarsely. Slice the other fennel bulb in half and then into ¼ inch slices. Discard greens or use elsewhere. Top and tail the carrots and slice thickly at a diagonal.

Heat the oil very hot in a 12” frying pan; add the butter and then all of the veggies. Sprinkle the curry spices over the  top. Keeping the pan as hot as you can, cook the veggies quickly, turning them as they brown. Lower the heat once they have cooked for 5 minutes, but only to medium. 

Reduce the bean juice: Pour the bean juice (not the beans – leave them behind in the pot) into the curried veggies. Add the salt and bring to a rapid boil. Remove the bay leaves, garlic cloves and large pieces of dead veggies from the beans in the bean pot. After the veggies and broth in the frying pan have cooked for a few minutes, remove the veggies with a slotted spoon to the bean pot. Continue to boil the broth rapidly until it is reduced by half. 

Assemble and finish the dish: Add the broth back to the beans and curried vegetables and lightly stir with a wooden spoon. Cover and keep hot for an hour at 300º in a conventional oven, or in your woodfired oven if it is still warm.

Serve the Curried Red Beans over basmati rice and top with mango chutney and plain yogurt (or raita, if available). Pass the crusty homemade bread and enjoy!

Red Bean Jar 400w

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At, Sortachef takes you on adventures in the kitchen and beyond, with tales to suit. Many of his offerings are woodfired - a flaming good recipe for pizza, bread, or something different. All recipes are original and tasty. Enjoy!
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