Saturday, 24 August 2013

Purple Green Bean Masala

The purple green bean is a bit of a conundrum.  The plants themselves have green leaves, but the stems are edged with purple, and they have gorgeous purple flowers.  The beans are a dark purple, so pretty in the garden.

But when they’re cooked, they switch to orthodoxy, and become green.  If you serve these, no one will know their original colour, unless you can pick a little spray of them, including some flowers, and use that as a centrepiece on your table. 

Like any fresh green bean, these take about fifteen minutes of cooking time, and with the masala, this dish takes at least forty-five minutes to prepare.  If you’re already in the kitchen preparing the other courses, this is time well spent.

Mine grow up with cilantro, violas and weeds, alas...
½ teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
¼ teaspoon black cumin seed
1 flake mace
2 Kashmiri chilies
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon fennel seed
2 black cardamoms, bashed and husked
3 green cardamoms, bashed and ground a bit
½ teaspoon turmeric powder 

1 tablespoon ghee
½ red onion, sliced thinly
½ inch ginger root, chopped finely
3 cups fresh purple green beans
1 large tomato, diced
¼ cup dried coconut (unsweetened)
 ½ cup water
salt to taste
2 tiny limes, juiced

They slowly turn green as they cook!
Begin by gently roasting the spices.  Use the large open pan you will be cooking this in, and roast whole spices on medium high heat for a couple of minutes.  Brush them into a spice grinder, along with the turmeric powder.  Grind to a fine powder.  Set aside. 

Add the ghee to the pan (I suppose you could substitute something healthier) and when it’s hot, add the onions and ginger.  Cook till onions are translucent and becoming golden at the edges.  Add ground spices and cook another minute or two.  Stir in the coconut, and cook for another minute or two.  

You can barely see a few flowers above, not the viola below.
Add the beans, diced tomato and water, and simmer for at least fifteen minutes.  The beans will change colour to green, but that doesn’t mean they’re cooked.  Taste for tenderness.  The expression, ‘tough beans’ has its origins in reality.  I like them a bit on the al dente side, especially if there are left-overs, and they have to be re-heated.  

At the last minute, add the salt and lime juice and stir to coat evenly.  These beans are tangy and they soak up chilie heat like mad, so the taste will be pungent.  They make a powerful side dish, very healthy too! The purple gone green packs a lot of flavour!


  1. I never thought to use green beans in Indian cuisine. Might be what I do with the last few handfuls in the garden (even if mine are green and not purple). :)

    1. Green green beans will work too! Thanks for visiting!