It’s great when you discover a new way with regular ingredients. It’s even better when the ingredients involved are few and the recipe is effortless. My friend SK, who knows my love for Southern Indian food, is often my guide and shares new ideas or leads me to lesser known food-blogs that highlight the kind of food I like to cook. She is a writer and is constantly engaging the characters, such as you and me, around her. These ‘encounters’ make her a treasure trove of traditional recipes as well. During one such chat with me, she sketched the dish the maid had put together for her lunch that day. A basic, peasant-style approach to food, it involved the ubiquitous red chilli as the only spice. The addition of roasted peanuts, of course, adds to the nutritional content while providing a hint of refinement to what is otherwise a truly minimalistic dish. It is almost as if you were deconstructing the Maharashtrian-style gavar-bhaji, and trying to retain what is absolutely essential. The two dishes are similar, yet it is clear that the peasant-style one has been pared down to its essence. Frugal, but, full of flavour.
The finished dish can work as a side to any Indian meal, or even as a salad. You could replace cluster beans with another vegetable – french beans, peas, cabbage – endless combinations. Or mix it into cooked rice, as Sangeeta said she did, with some additional oil or ghee, and you have a one-dish pulav/stir-fried rice that is perfect for a packed lunch. It has won gavar-haters over to this side!
Gavar (cluster beans) with Peanuts
250gms (1/4lb.) fresh cluster beans
1/4-1/2 cup freshly roasted peanuts, crushed
3-5 whole dried red chillies (I use a mix combining Byadgi from Karnataka, Guntur chillies, and Goan titimiti chillies. Sometimes, I also throw in a mor milagai, chillies that have been soaked in salted buttermilk and then sun-dried)
3-5 cloves of garlic
1-2 tsp oil
salt, to taste
Top and tail cluster beans, and cut into 1/2 cm dice. Steam (or boil) the beans till they are of desired tenderness; I like them to have just a hint of crispness, but not be crunchy all the way. Heat oil and fry the whole chillies and the garlic. Cool and pound in a pestle and mortar. Add the roasted peanuts and pound further till you have the texture in the pictures above. Add salt and mix. Toss this spiced mix with the cooked cluster beans and serve warm or at room temperature.