Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gavarfali Ki Subji - Cluster Beans cooked in spices and tomato gravy

I can't look at my list of things to do. There is a huge backlog and I don't know when I'm going to come around it. Arranging the closet? may be next weekend. Organizing the spice cabinet ? after I'm back from Turkey. So much shopping, cleaning and riddening task on my end,the list is endless. Endless because there is always one thing that races forward on the list each time and everything else needs to just wait. Its like a disease where I'll buy all the vegetables I can put my hand on and stuff the fridge to the point it might collapse. It calms me, yes it does, when I see all that fresh green and vibrant red of tomatoes and yellow bell peppers it calms all my nerves. I can sit back assured  I'll never die of hunger! But this phenomena only happens every 2-3 weeks when we go grocery shopping. The first week is full of creativity, fresh vegetables and pleasure. I start my day subconsciously gathering the ingredients I want, things I need to pick up on the way and prepare myself for the chopping work.

As the second week dawns , the stock is delepeting and whats left are the things I don't really like or Murtaza doesnt like eating (thats rare, because I cook things I like whether not he does and try to fool him into eating it). Its a challenge that I throw at myself each time, to buy things I might have hated previously and to find a new found love in it. So here I'm with Gavarfali aka Cluster Beans. Gavarfali is one of the few things that grow abundantly in Rajasthan, which otherwise is a dry land with less than desired vegetation. Gavarfali often popped up on our lunch menu and mom struggled to get us eating it. I don't know what I disliked about it! Like most kid's the fact that it is beans and greens send us running away from it. And old habits die hard. Mine died long time ago (couple of years is long enough?). But some kids don't grow up namely Murtaza. He made a long face when I declared what I was upto. I had a plan, it didn't bother me.

This stringy, woody and nutty beans are full of fibre. They are best when they young  and tender. As they mature, they become woodier, stringier and requires more cooking time. Cluster beans can be tricky, they have to be cooked well but if you overcook it , it looses it delicate flavor. Talking about stringy, even the young beans have to be topped and stringed. Bitting into a string is not fun, specially around people who have already made a long face. Lets get going shall we?

Gavarfali Ki Subji - Masala Cluster Bean
Serves : 4


Cluster Beans
1 Red onion (medium, sliced)
2 tomatoes (medium, ripe, chopped )
2 potatoes (medium, cubed)*
3-4 cloves of Garlic
1 inch size Ginger
2 green chillies
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Red chilly Powder
2 tsp Coriander powder
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 tbsp Olive oil

* This is the plan. Potatoes! Kids love potatoes don't they? How would it harm, add potatoes to cluster beans, if nothing else worked they can just pick on the spicy potatoes. Thats one. Second- potatoes add a great balance to the distinct flavor of the beans. A bite with the soft melting potatoes with the nutty flavors of bean is Perfect.


Did I tell you I pre-plan my chopping? Getting away with chopping makes life easy specially with Indian cooking. Once you have that done, everything is just a repetitive methodology. String and top the cluster beans. The beans where young and thin and I didn't find it necesarry to pre-boil it. But if you have got your hand on woody ones, you can consider boiling them for 2-3 minutes.
I have a theory. I chop everything on one cutting board, and if everything fits just right, I declare it an easy recipe. See, chopped onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, chillies and half of the cluster beans (world isn't perfect! all the cluster beans can't fit in there, so what!no theories are perfect)

In a kadai or saucepan, heat oil and let the cumin seeds lightly brown.

 Add the ginger, garlic and chillies (you can use GGC paste).

 Once the garlic cooks out, add the onions. Cook till the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the spices and salt (1 tsp). Let the spice mix well with the oil before you drop the tomatoes. The acidity in the tomatoes will clean the pan, picking up the bits and pieces that might have stuck to the bottom.

Once the tomatoes have almost cooked to form a masala add the potatoes.The other reliable option is minced meat. Add it add the same time as you would have added the potatoes. But you know what ? Keep it all vegeterian will you? because it tastes just as good. After the meal, you can take pride in having had a full vegeterian meal which is healthy with minimum fat. But if you have a non burging "KID" , add it. He oops! He or she won't complain.

Add the chopped cluster beans and coat everything in the masala.

Add 1 cup water and let it simmer on low flame for 5-7 minutes. Cover with lid and cook for 15- 20 minutes on low flame or till the cluster beans are soft but retains it's shape.

Most of the liquid should have soaked up now. Open the lid and  fry for another 5 minutes ( or more if all the water had not evaporated.) Ofcourse, how dry or not dry you want is your wish.

Served with rice, chappati or brown pita bread, the "KID" ate it by itself. You know what that means? Wohooooo! I won :)


  1. Hi Kulsum, Here after a long time. But I must say the pics are getting better and better. Congrats on the new camera. TC Angela

  2. Thanx Angela. But of what I'm learning its not just about the camera, there is so much more and I often fail to find time for it all. Keep visiting :)

  3. Hey Kulsum, add fenugreek seeds(methi) along with the cumin seeds. Also i add a few whole green chilies.

  4. Hi Kulsum, thank you for this recipe. It was easy to follow (thanks to the pictures) and turned out great! Maybe a little hot for my taste, but i adjusted the hotness the next times that i´ve cooked it, so no problem, new recipes are always a bit of an adventure anyway :) Anyways, my soon to be indian mom in law now thinks that i am great at cooking indian food, so thanks for that!! :) Katharina

    1. So glad to read it worked for you. Thank you!


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