Rinse the cowpeas and cook with double the amount of water as the beans. If using a traditional stove top pressure cooker, cook for 4-5 whistles. Let the pressure release and then open. If using an Instant Pot, add double the amount of water as the amount of beans, cook on Manual for 15 mins and wait for pressure to be released naturally.
Drain the water and keep aside.
Heat coconut oil in a saute pan and add the mustard seeds in it to crackle and pop. Throw in the curry leaves and mix well. Break the dried red chillies to half and add them to the pan and mix well.
Add the chopped red pearl onions and garlic and saute well over medium heat till the onions and garlic start to soften and lose the raw smell. Do not let them brown too much or get burnt.
Add the drained beans, turmeric powder and salt. Give a quick mix and let it cook over medium-low heat for a couple of minutes till the beans absorb all the flavors from the pearl onions and garlic. Turn off heat.
In this recipe, the cowpeas are not soaked before cooking them. But you can totally soak them for 30 mins or so, to help them cook faster.
This can be considered as a base recipe and you can add a variety of other ingredients or spices to it. Any greens like spinach, kale or chard will be a wonderful addition to this.
Pearl onions are recommended for this recipe to get that slightly sweet onion flavor. If you absolutely don't have pearl onions, you can substitute shallots for it.
The vanpayar can be cooked on the stove top in a saucepan, or a pressure cooker or in an Instant Pot.