One-Pot Wonders

Masaledar Sem (Spicy Green Beans)

August 18, 2014
1 Ratings
Photo by Alexandra Stafford
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

If you've ever wanted to try making Indian food at home, this is a great introductory recipe. It's relatively simple to throw together, and you won't have to vastly expand your spice collection to get it on the table. Whole cumin seeds, ground coriander, and some sort of dried chile or crushed red pepper flakes are the only pantry spices you need. It is important to have all of your ingredients prepped before you start cooking this dish because it comes together in no time once the first spices hit the hot oil. Feel free to scale back the oil, spices, and salt if you are working with less than 1 1/2 pounds of green beans. And finally, while the ground, roasted cumin seeds add another dimension of flavor, if you leave them out, the dish won't suffer. Here's how you make them: toast a teaspoon (or however much you would like to make) of whole cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook until the cumin seeds have turned a few shades darker and are smelling fragrant. Grind in spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

I love serving this with basmati rice, cooked in equal parts coconut milk and water, warm naan, and a dollop of plain yogurt. This recipe comes from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking. —Alexandra Stafford

What You'll Need
  • 1 1/2 pounds (750 grams) fresh green beans
  • 1 piece fresh ginger 1 1/2 inches (4 centimeters) long and 1 inch (2 1/2 centimeters) thick, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 1/2 cups (350 milliliters) water, divided
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 dried hot chile, lightly crushed in a mortar or a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 medium tomatoes, peeled (optional) and finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (or more or less to taste)
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 teaspoon ground, roasted cumin (see note above)
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  1. Trim the beans and cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch (10-millimeter) lengths. Put the ginger and garlic into the container of an electric blender or food processor. Add 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) of water and blend until fairly smooth.
  2. Put the oil in a wide, heavy pot over medium heat. When hot, put in the cumin seeds. Five seconds later, put in the crushed chile or crushed red pepper flakes. As soon as it darkens, pour in the ginger-garlic paste. Stir and cook for about a minute. Put in the coriander. Stir a few times. Add the chopped tomatoes. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes, mashing up the tomato pieces with the back of a slotted spoon as you do.
  3. Put in the beans, salt (maybe not all of it to start), and the remaining water. Bring to a simmer. Cover, turn heat to low, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the beans are tender. Remove the cover and add the juice of half a lemon, the ground roasted cumin seeds (if using), and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Taste and adjust with more lemon, salt, or pepper as necessary.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lisa Valentine
    Lisa Valentine
  • Petite fee
    Petite fee
  • Lynn
  • Alexandra Stafford
    Alexandra Stafford
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.

11 Reviews

Alison September 22, 2018
A bit disappointed. After all the effort (as with most Indian dishes), I was hoping for something much more flavorful.... something that would "WOW" me. It's not bad, but I will not make again.
Benjamin Z. March 28, 2018
I’ve made this recipe several times. I find that it can be beneficial to reduce the overall amount of water. Using a serrano in lieu of the ground chile can be nice. Finally, I discovered tonight that I only had one pound of green beans, so I subbed in about half a pound of red bell pepper and some mild, long yellow pepper and it may have been the best instance of the dish I’ve tried so far.
Alexandra S. March 28, 2018
ooh yum ... it all sounds so good. I'll give these changes a try next time I make it. Thanks!
Lisa V. September 28, 2014
Is this suitable to freeze? (I have a glut of green beans, and this looks like a good option to use them up)
Petite F. September 8, 2014
WOW! amazing flavor!! I think to make it a bit more substantially vegetarian, I will try tofu or chickpeas topped with cilantro.
thanks 4 sharing!!

Carrie August 16, 2015
I added lentils to mine - bulked up the dish nicely so it felt like a substantial main over the coconut rice. Yum!
Lynn August 28, 2014
Of all my (dozens of!) cookery books, the Madhur Jaffrey book this recipe comes from is the most used, most stained, most loved. Every dish I've made from it has been delicious, and this is one of our favourites. Totally DELICIOUS!
Diane August 26, 2014
Absolutely scrumptious and addictive. I kept eating it long after my stomach said STOP, which is exactly the criteria for a recipe to land in my permanent collection. I'm curious to try other veggies too - maybe asparagus, or even brussels sprouts. I was worried it wouldn't be substantial enough for a vegetarian meal, but the addition of the coconut basmati more than made up for the lightness. Real delightful - thank you, Alexandra for sharing it!
Alexandra S. August 26, 2014
So happy to hear this, Diane! I think a number of vegetables would take nicely to this preparation — maybe even some dark, leafy greens? And I totally agree that the coconut basmati definitely adds a richness that makes the meal feel substantial.
Atlanticgull August 24, 2014
This was WONDERFUL!!! Hugely successful and will become a regular. Next time I'll make an attempt at Naan, too. Thanks!!
Alexandra S. August 25, 2014
Yay!! I'm so happy to hear this.