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Beans ‘kadugu aracha kootu’;  (Photo: Nandita Iyer)
Beans ‘kadugu aracha kootu’; (Photo: Nandita Iyer)

Regional recipes with beans inspired by my neighbours

A WhatsApp cooking group can uplift even the most mundane ingredients and provide knock-out kitchen ideas

Cooking two-three meals a day is something I have always been doing without breaking a sweat. However, cooking as well as doing all the other chores in the house has been rather draining. Preparing food leads to many other sub-chores, such as prepping ingredients, post-cooking clean-up and doing the dishes, all of which make cooking feel like public enemy No.1 in these times.

In such circumstances, even a cooking enthusiast like me seeks inspiration, and there has been no dearth of it. We have a cooking WhatsApp group in my residential complex which was primarily used to share recipes, ask queries regarding a dish, or even for the old-fashioned borrowing of a cup of sugar or eggs. In these lockdown times, the cooking group is on fire. It’s a virtual communal table, with neighbours sharing pictures and recipes of what they cooked at home. Some of the photographs are so enticing that it invariably turns into one of those challenges on the internet where all of us end up cooking the dish with whatever ingredients we can muster. It adds a fun element to what is turning out to be a mundane task.

One such recipe, shared by my neighbour Latha Raghu, instantly piqued my curiosity. In this green beans curry (kadugu aracha kootu), she used a mustard seed paste as the base along with other spices. Shorshe bata, a paste of mustard seeds and green chillies, is commonly used in mustard-based curries in Bengali cuisine but I had not heard of this being used in a Tamil dish. The pungency of this dish is such a novelty compared to my usual favourite, the beans parupussili, in which steamed green beans are tossed in a crispy dal crumble.

The other big source of cooking inspiration is recipe videos. I have a few favourite cooking YouTube channels whose videos I never miss. A lot of cooking channels are creating some great content during this lockdown period. Most of them are showing recipes that can be made using a bare minimum list of ingredients. Some of them are teaching us how to make our favourite street foods, which can be enjoyed sitting at home.

One of my favourite food channels, Bong Eats, run by Insiya and Saptarshi, a husband-wife duo from Kolkata, recently released a vlog documenting the process of cooking a simple meal during the lockdown. The videos on this channel have an extraordinary aesthetic appeal paired with the precision of recipes that make me want to try every vegetarian dish featured on it. Not to mention that these videos are a calming, feel-good watch during these stressful days.

One dish from their vlog was a simple beans-aloo torkari (dry curry) with a tempering of red chillies, bay leaf and kalonji (nigella seeds) in mustard oil and ginger and cumin for added flavour. I cannot wait to try it out as soon as I can replenish the empty bottle of mustard oil. Pan-frying the green beans retains their colour and texture and there is no risk of overcooking the vegetable. However, given that green beans are not in season these days, quick pressure-cooking is the best way to deal with them, which is why both the recipes I have shared today use this method. If you do find tender green beans, then, by all means, cook them in a pan.

BEANS KADUGU ARACHA KOOTU

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

150g beans, finely chopped (loosely filled 1.5 cups)

1 tsp ghee

1/4 tsp mustard seeds

A pinch of asafoetida

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/4 tsp salt

A pinch of sugar

2 tsp chana dal

2 tsp urad dal

1 tsp coriander seeds

2 red chillies

2 tbsp grated coconut

1 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds*

Method

In a small pressure cooker, heat ghee. Add mustard seedsand once they splutter, stir in asafoetida and turmeric powder. Mix in chopped beans, salt and sugar, stir for a few seconds. Add around K cup water and pressure-cook for one whistle.

In a small pan, dry-roast chana dal, urad dal, coriander seeds and red chillies until the dals turn golden brown and aromatic. Blend these ingredients along with grated coconut and mustard seeds, adding up to N cup water to get a fine paste.

Open the pressure cooker and mix in the prepared paste. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Bring this to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add a splash of water if the curry turns too thick.

*Increase the quantity of mustard seeds used depending on the pungency you like.

Serve with rice.

Beans ‘aloo subzi’.
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Beans ‘aloo subzi’. (Photo: Nandita Iyer)

BEANS ALOO SUBZI

Serves 2

Ingredients

100g green beans

1 small potato

1 small onion

1-2 tsp ghee

1/4 tsp kalonji

1/2 tsp ginger paste (or grated ginger)

1/4 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/4 cup mint leaves, finely chopped

Method

Top and tail the beans and remove strings from the sides. Cut into 2- inch-long pieces. Peel and chop the potato into fingers. Thinly slice the onion.

In a small pressure cooker, heat ghee. Fry the kalonji, followed by the ginger paste. Stir in the vegetables. Season with salt and sugar. Add turmeric powder and stir well to combine. Pour N cup hot water and pressure-cook for one whistle. Open the cooker and cook for 1-2 minutes until any residual liquid dries out. Remove from heat and combine chopped mint. Serve with dal and rice.

Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer is the author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian.

Twitter - @saffrontrail

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