Cluster beans are common all over India and prized for their deep flavour. Compared to green beans they are slightly tougher and have a slightly bitter flavour. This recipe is perfect because it plays with the essence of the beans.
The process of cooking this dish is simple, first, blanch the beans slightly to get rid of some of the bitterness and then cook it with a spicy spice mix. I like to keep the beans longer than is traditional, they visually present better this way/. The trick to this recipe is to keep the beans with a touch of crunch, this adds a lovely texture, rather than the overcooked soggy and mushy beans that are generally served.
The dish pops with flavour, chilli and spices in perfect harmony with the light bitterness of the beans. the texture is about a light crunch that makes the dish interesting. This is a lovely side for any Indian or international table.
Archana Pidathala is an ode to her grandmother's cooking. This book is so much more than a collection of recipes, it brings to my table a history of the cuisine and people. Wonderfully written and with beautiful photographs, this cookbook fills a gap in my bookshelf in a cuisine that I know very little about.
For more delicious, and spicy, dishes from this cookbook, click here.
For the spice mix:
1 tablespoon desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon black gram dal (urad)
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
6-8 dried red chillies, or to taste
3-4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon jaggery
3-4 tablespoons water
1/2 lb tender cluster beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon black gram dal (urad)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 dried red chillies
12-15 curry leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
Make the spice paste by roasting the coconut, gram dal, coriander seeds and chillies individually till aromatic and lightly coloured. Cool. Add to a spice mill and grind to a fine powder.
Add the powder to a small blender with the garlic, jaggery and water. Grind to a smooth paste that is very thick.
Add the cut beans to a pot with water, salt and turmeric. Bring to a boil. Simmer gently for 12-15 minutes depending on how tender the beans are. You want the beans cooked but still maintaining their crunch. RDrain and set aside.
Heat a pot or wok with the oil. Add the mustard seeds and as soon as they splutter, about 10 seconds, add the rest of the tempering ingredients, gram dal, cumin, chillies and curry leaves. sautè for 30 seconds and add the onions. Cook on low heat till the onions are translucent and very soft.
Add the spice mix and salt and fry till the spice mix is dry and the oils begin to pool in bubbles. The mix should be aromatic and fry to a slightly darker shade.
Add the cooked beans and sautè the beans for 3-4 minutes. The spice mix should coat the beans heavily. taste for salt and texture of the beans.
Serve hot with chapattis.