Last month I made the annual end-of-summer visit to my parents' farm. This is a particularly opportune time of year to visit as there is a huge glut of produce coming from the garden (and mushrooms from the woods, but that is a story for another time). I left with an overflowing box full of tomatoes, sweetcorn, apples, peas, broad beans, a massive quantity of courgettes, cucumbers, runner beans and fresh herbs. I took as much as I could carry.
In previous years I would hesitate before taking the runner beans. I have to admit, until recently I was always a bit unenthusiastic when it came to runner beans. I think it was their slightly furry texture that put me off. However, my mum used to make this unusual but very delicious green bean chutney which I loved; rich with mustard seeds and onions and turmeric, it had a curry-like aspect to it which, as a long-time curry lover, obviously appealed to me. Last year I had about half a kilo of runner beans and, wondering what to do with them, I remembered this chutney, and so got mum to send me the recipe. It is, as you'd expect of any good chutney, quite vinegary, which is another thing that particularly gets my taste-buds going! The chutney was great, and was just as tasty as in my memories.
This recipe is not for a chutney, but it was the seed of an idea. I had a moment of inspiration and realised that I could make a hot version of the runner bean chutney which, with generous quantities of vinegar and garlic, would be kinda like a vindaloo. It turned out to be really good, I'll definitely be making it again and I'll be pre-ordering the runner beans from the garden next year!
- 500 g runner beans
- 3 tbsp high quality rapeseed oil
- 50 ml white wine vinegar
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1.5 tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp brown mustard seeds
- ¼ tsp whole fenugreek seeds
- 15 fresh curry leaves
- 3 medium onion, finely sliced along the grain
- 2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated
- 1 handful baby spinach leaves
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
Finely slice 2 or 3 of the runner beans length-ways and set aside to use for garnish later. Roughly chop the rest of the beans into about 2 inch pieces. Put a large, heavy based casserole pot or deep frying pan on a medium-high heat and add the rapeseed oil. Wait for the oil to heat up. Fry the beans in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, until they are lightly browned. Set aside on a tray or in a bowl.
While the beans are frying, measure out the turmeric, cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne pepper and garam masala and set aside in a bowl.
Ideally, your pan will be big enough to cook the rest of the curry in it; if not, transfer all the fat from the pan into a larger one. Set the pan over a medium-high heat and add the mustard and fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the onions and curry leaves. Stir and fry until the onions turn a light golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic, and stir until fully mixed. Now add the spice mixture. Turn the heat down and continue to cook for around 5 minutes.
Add the beans to the pan along with the salt, sugar, vinegar and 150ml water. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 5-10 minutes, until the beans are soft.
Taste the curry and add more salt if necessary. Finally, add the baby spinach and stir until gently wilted. Serve with white rice, and garnish with the raw sliced beans.