Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Beans Kootu (a South Indian stew made with french beans)

My father had a very good friend, Oak Kaka. My dad and he would address each other as 'Maharaj'.  He was a very jovial person and had the merriest, twinkly grey eyes. He liked cricket as much as my father does and would often join  my father to watch a match.
I absolutely dislike cricket. Never understood the charm of grown up men chasing an itty-bitty ball like madmen.
But the men-folk loved it.
What I liked was, the colorful language that flowed freely. Oak kaka was outspoken in his criticism of any foul by any Indian cricket team member. His voice carried in to the other rooms  and I picked up the new vocabulary, eagerly, like any kid!

When the riots erupted in Mumbai in the '80's,  we all heard horror stories where people were stopped in the middle of the street and asked what religion they belonged to. What would you reply when you are faced with some fanatic, holding a weapon in your face? If you said one religion and he was the other, he'd slice you up, without a moments thought!
Oak kaka was stopped on a street when he was hurrying home, to safety. I only heard bits and pieces, but the gist was, he was yanked out of his cab, a sword was held to his chest and he was asked what religion he followed. Nothing but sheer presence of mind saved him, that day. He stammered out, "Parsi" and was let go. I thought that was brilliant! 

Oak kaka like french beans, They were his favorite veggie. He called it 'furshi'.
When I made this kootu (koot), I thought of him and felt that he would have enjoyed it as much as the simple stir-fry

A couple of months ago, I made a new acquaintance. R, had moved in to our apartment community in the summer and we met through common friends, when out for a morning walk. 
That's one of the things I enjoy on my walks, the crisp cool breeze, the absolutely beautiful mountains on all sides, the clouds hanging low and chatting with friends as we walk.
One day, R called some of us to her home for a small religious function and served us lunch. She made this kootu, which was delicious. I had to get the recipe.
The following week, R showed me how to.

Since then, this is one of our favorite ways of eating french beans. Ladled over piping hot, white rice, it is absolutely lip-smackingly delicious.

You need:

2 cups Beans, chopped
1 Tomato, chopped
1 cup, Toor and Moong Daal, cooked together and mashed
A key lime sized ball of tamarind soaked in 1/4 cup warm water and extract the pulp (discard the solids)
1tbsp Sambar Powder
1 Tbsp Cilantro, chopped ( tender stems ok)

To grind :
1 tbsp Chana daal
1.5 tbsp Coriander seeds
1-3 Dry red chillies ( adjust to suit your tolerance for heat)
1 tbsp Coconut ( fresh, grated) (you can add more, but I don't like it too 'coconutty')
Salt to taste

To Temper
2 tsp Oil
1 tsp Mustard seeds
Pinch Asafetida
Curry leaves


Wash the toor and moong daal in 3-4 changes of water and pressure cook the daals (add twice the amount of water )till soft and mushy.

Wash, de-vein the beans and chop.
Chop the tomato in cubes
In a small pressure cooker, add 2-3 tbsp water at the bottom and then add the beans and tomato.
Pressure cook on high for 2 whistles. Immediately release the pressure.

Till the time the beans cook, start the next prep.

Make the spice paste. In a pan, heat just a couple of drops of oil. Add the chana daal, the coriander seeds and the dry red chilies. Toast till the daal turns light golden , the coriander seeds are aromatic and the chilies turn bright red.
Cool and then grind with the fresh shredded coconut adding a little water to get a smooth paste.



In a deep sauce pan, heat oil for the tempering, Add the chana daal, mustard seeds.

Heat 1 tbsp oil. Add mustard seed, chana daal and curry leaves. Once the mustard seeds pop, the daal bronws (not too dark, please!), add the cooked beans and tomato.


Add Tamarind water and let it come to a boil.


As it comes to a boil, add the sambar podi and mix well to ensure there are no lumps.

Add the cooked and mashed daal. and mix well. 

 Now add it the masala paste (the one that has coconut in it) and cilantro.


One rolling boil and its ready to serve.



 This kootu tastes best with plain white rice. A bit of pickle and papad only make it taste better ( and you over eat!, but in a good way).

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