Madhur Jaffrey’s Green Bean Curry

A glut of green beans, even though I didn’t manage to grow any of my own this year, together with the decision to have a curry night this week had me googling bean curry.  But in the end the recipe I chose was from my mother’s 1987 edition of Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘An Invitation to Indian Cookery, first published in 1976.

There were several recipes for beans (Green Beans with Ginger and Green Beans with Mustard) in this book, but I settled on ‘Green Beans with Onion Paste’ as I wanted a curry with more of a sauce.

1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans (I used 500g and this was plenty)
1 medium-sized onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
A piece of fresh ginger, about 1 inch square, coarsely chopped
1 medium-sized canned tomato, coarsely chopped (I used a tin of chopped tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
10 tablespoons vegetable oil (Err, used about 2 tbps)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds (I couldn't find any so used onion seeds)
Optional - 1 or 2 whole dried red peppers OR 1/2 hot fresh green chili sliced in half OR 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used 1/2 tsp hot chilli flakes)
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
2 teaspoons lemon juice (I did not add any, yet the curry had a surprisingly light lemony taste?!)

Slice the beans into 1cm thick slices.

Peel and roughly chop the onion, garlic, ginger, and turmeric and blend together with the tomatoes to a smooth paste. 

Here Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe fries the onion paste and beans separately, frying the paste in 6 tbsp of oil for 5 minutes adding 1 tbsp of water at a time if it starts to stick and then adding the ground coriander and cumin.  She then fries the cumin and mustard seeds in the remaining oil until they pop then adds the beans and onion paste from the other pan together with the remaining ingredients to taste.

Having cooked all day, I could not be bothered with two pans and opted for a one pan option, choosing to fry the green beans as above with the cumin and what turned out to be black onion seeds, and then poured over the paste and added the other ingredients.  I also added a can full of recently boiled water to make more sauce. 

I simmered the sauce for about 20 minutes.  Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe, however, says 35 minutes, saying “In India we tend to overcook [green beans]…mainly to kill germs and because we love spices.  We like our spices to permeate a vegetable and this cannot happen unless a vegetable is allowed to become fairly tender.  When you finish this recipe, your beans with not look bright green, nor will they be very crisp.  They will be a brownish dark-green, smothered in spices, and utterly delicious.’