Monthly Archives: August 2009

Green Beans with Coconut or Beans Poriyal

I once passed off – successfully so – this very Indian subzi as a salad.

Either way, it is really fresh and light and  just great to eat in the summer.  And while it does take some time to dice the beans, the cooking part is so easy that it makes up for the longer prep time.

I love to eat it with sambhar and rice, or with phulkas and yoghurt. Or just mixed in to plain, hot rice, as Indira likes it too.

The recipe here is based on my memory of eating it in the homes of Tamilian friends and of watching one of them cook a similar dish once with very finely sliced cabbage. I believe vegetables cooked in this way are called poriyals.

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Green Beans with Coconut

400 grams of fresh green beans, washed, ends trimmed and diced quite small

1-2 tablespoons of sunflower oil

salt to taste

1 large dry red chili, broken in to two parts (optional though this spice adds a great flavor)

a pinch of asofetida (optional)

1/2 a teaspoon of mustard seeds

5-6 curry leaves

1/2 a teaspoon of coriander powder

2-4 tablespoons of fresh, grated coconut

2 tablespoons of chana (yellow split peas or black gram) dal though this too is optional

In a frying pan, heat the oil to a moderate temperature, then add the asofetida and the mustard seeds and fry till the seeds start to crackle and pop. Add the curry leaves and the red chili and fry for a few seconds. Now add the beans and mix well with the other ingredients. Cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes, turning over the beans a couple of times, then add  1/4 of a cup of water -maybe a little less, maybe a little more, depending on how fresh and soft or tough the beans are – and salt. Cover the pan and cook the beans on a moderate heat till they are tender. Towards the end, mix in the coriander powder. Just before you take the pan off the burner, add the grated coconut and mix well.

When I am using dal, I  soaked it for about an hour or two (I forgot to soak it today so decided to skip it)  then drain it thoroughly. I add it after the curry leaves, and fry it till it turns a very light brown color and acquires quite a soft but still crunchy texture.  After this, it cooks with the beans and is soft enough to eat by the time the beans are done.

This is another tout simple dish to make . And if you don’t count the coconut you could always use less, though along with the chana dal it is really what makes this dish the treat that it is – it has fairly little oil which is a plus too.


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Filed under Easy One Pot Cooking, Everyday Subzis, Salads, Versatile Accompaniments

Traditional Toffee at Confiserie Florian

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Like the Verrerie visit (to the factory in Biot where they demonstrate the technique of glass blowing at the beginning of the holidays which we did with Novairah and Zohair, the girls really enjoyed the afternoon we spent at the Confiserie Florian at Pont du Loup ( last week .  Zohair was with us too and I think they were all fascinated by  the bonbon-making process. They seemed very struck by the sight of real rose petals and violette flowers – among other flowers and fruits – being used to create the flavors, as much as by the molding machine.

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The browsing and tasting in the boutique was good fun too 🙂

Surprisingly, the kids liked the jams more than the toffees. And by unanimous choice, we all picked the rose jam to bring back with us.

Shri said that one of the confitures he tasted was “just like murabba” . Which made me wonder if kids in India know any more that delicious fruit confiture of our own.  My mother did make delicious  murabba with carrots and amla when we were in school, but I don’t think she does any more.

Probably a good thing too, given all the sugar that goes in to it !

But I guess I still seek the taste of those preserves made from traditional recipes, in which one could actually taste the fruit,  so that most commercially prepared jams just don’t work for me.

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violette bonbons, coated in sugar, ready for packing

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rose-flavored bonbons as they come out from the molding machine;the truncated finger is perhaps the hidden cost of hand-made?

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the pate, after it has been cooled and cut in to those smaller pieces with the scissors in the picture, before it is put through the molding machine

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Filed under LE FUTTED BALLON-life with the girls

A Simple Summer Lunch -Carrot & Green Bell Pepper Pulao with Cucumber Raita

Once again today Noor melted my heart with her  “you make very nice food , Mama” statement.

I love it when they seem to enjoy their meal.

Indira expresses the same feeling when she comes sniffing around the kitchen; she is one for showing her appreciation with her nose.

But it is Noor who often tells me “I love all the food you make ” and sometimes “you are the best cooker ever”.  So just for her I’ll come back to put down the recipes for today’s lunch – vegetable pulao ( a south Indian sort with a spice mix called pitlai powder) and cucumber raita.

Indira seemed to think , while she watched me make the raita, that it was one she didn’t like ( I haven’t made it  since last summer, probably)  but the heat has been so bad this week I thought it was what we needed to eat today.

So it was good to see her polish off two katoras of it and a little more…

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Filed under Easy One Pot Cooking, Picnic Food, Quick Meal Ideas, Raitas, RECIPES

Alphonse and Gaston- or, Pehle Aap

I learned this expression – “like Alphonse and Gaston”  from Wordsmith. It is, interestingly, a parallel to the very Lukhnavi “pehle aap” syndrome.

Here’s what says about the history of the expression.

(From the daily mail from that site – )


with Anu Garg

Love and Marriage go together like a horse and carriage, so the song goes. They do, often, but not always. On the other hand, characters in this week’s pairs do go together, at least in language. This week’s eponyms (a word coined after a person) feature two people who work together, well, like a nut and a bolt, or a rack and pinion, or yin and yang or an axle and a wheel.

Alphonse and Gaston


(AL-fons uhn GAS-tuhn)


noun: Two people who treat each other with excessive deference, often to their detriment.


After the title characters in a cartoon strip by cartoonist Frederick Burr Opper (1857-1937). Alphonse and Gaston are extremely polite to each other, to the extent that their “After you, Alphonse”, “You first, my dear Gaston!” routine often gets them into trouble, such as when they can’t evade a trolley which mows them down while each insists on letting the other go first.


“A weeklong bout of Governor and public worker unions playing Alphonse and Gaston on contract proposals has the public frustrated about an end to the nonsense. No one really cares who goes first and no one cares if the offer is on or off the record, written or oral, engraved on fine linen or scribbled on a Post-it.”
Cynthia Oi; All We Really Want Are Some Solutions; Star-Bulletin (Hawaii); Jul 12, 2009 .


Poetry is the overflowing of the Soul. -Henry Theodore Tuckerman, author and critic (1813-1871)

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© 2009

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Filed under NOT ABOUT FOOD

Just a Regular Chicken Curry

Yury smiled when I told them that is what it was, when I introduced the dish to everyone at Chantal’s last week at dinner.

I guess they all really liked the look and aroma of the curry, and may have felt that perhaps a lot of work went in to making  it.

But it really is just that – an every day sort of chicken curry. It is the way I saw chicken cooked most often at home and it is Indira’s current favorite form of chicken. So when I mailed the recipe to Ake and Agneta yesterday, who really enjoyed it that evening and were keen to know the recipe, I thought I should record it here too, for Indira’s future reference.

Chicken Curry

Chicken – 800 gms

Sunflower oil  – 3 tablespoons

Onions – 3 medium sized or 4 small ones, sliced quite fine

Garlic (grated or paste) – 2-3 teaspoons

Ginger (grated or paste) – 2 teaspoons

Black cardamom – 3 pods

Cinnamon sticks – 3-4 small pieces

Pureed tomatoes – 2 large (leave the tomatoes for a few minutes in boiling water to remove the skin and soften the tomatoes a bit, then puree them. Or you could use 4-6 tablespoons of pureed, canned tomatoes)

Salt – to taste

For the marinade –

Yoghurt 150 ml
Turmeric 3/4 or 1 teaspoon
Coriander powder 1 or 1 and 1/2 teaspoons
Red chilli powder ( I use a very mild variety- which is used mainly for the color it adds- called “Kashmiri/Deghi” chilli powder) – 1 teaspoon
(use much less of this spice – say only 1/2 a teaspoon – if you are using a stronger variety but this also depends on how “hot” you like your curry to be)

Skin the chicken, then pierce each piece in 3-4 places with a fork. Mix all the ingredients of the marinade in a large, flat box/bowl, then coat the chicken pieces well in it.
Close/cover the bowl well and leave the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours (the longer it is left in the marinade, the softer the chicken will become on cooking. I like to marinate the chicken for at least 6 hours).

In a large frying pan (large enough to accommodate most of the chicken so that there is room to turn all the pieces as you cook them; this allows all the pieces to be well-fried) heat the oil then add the cardamom and the cinnamon.

Fry these for a minute till their aroma is released, then add the onions and fry till they start to turn a golden brown color. Add the ginger and garlic, fry for a few more minutes till the onions start to become a darker brown, then add the chicken with its marinade and salt. Fry everything together till the yoghurt dries up completely (you will see the oil start to appear on the sides).

Now add the pureed tomatoes and fry further till the tomatoes are thoroughly blended (once again, you’ll see the oil appearing on the sides).

Add approximately one and a half cups of boiled water, cover the frying pan with a tight fitting lid and leave the curry to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or till it is the consistency you like.

If you have 2 tablespoons of fresh, chopped coriander for garnish, that will add a great flavor to the taste.

This is perfect with hot phulkas, paranthas if you are in an indulgent mood or some nice boulangerie-style bread  to mop up the curry.

Update – 20 Oct 2009

The picture here is actually of the curry that Mohan b made from this recipe . He says it worked out alright.

Thanks you, Mohan B , I’m honored that you think this was worth the effort 🙂


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Filed under Curries