One-Pot Wonders

Masaledar Sem (Spicy Green Beans)

August 18, 2014
Photo by Alexandra Stafford
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

  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 6
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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.

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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.