French beans were originally cultivated in Latin America, but they are now grown throughout the world, and have been part of Indian cuisine for thousands of years. They are a popular vegetable in Gujarat, where they are known as fansi. I prefer to cook them very simply, not mixed with other vegetables, because their flavour is just so unique. It can get overwhelmed by stronger, more shouty vegetables. Green beans are highly nutritious, full of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
I love the absolute simplicity of Gujarati cuisine. It’s humble, and mindful of its ability to support holistic health through its Ayurvedic principles. Most food in India is cooked seasonally, and vegetables and fruits are generally only available when they are harvested. Fansi is a perfect example of how a simple vegetable can be turned into the tastiest dish with minimal effort, and a few key spices. The secret of this recipe is caraway seeds. Known as ajwain in India, they have a slight aniseed taste, and although they have a strong presence, they bring out the flavour of french beans perfectly.
You can cook this recipe during the working week, as it takes very little time to prepare. You might want to serve it with some home made chapatis and some fresh natural yogurt. You could also serve some dal on the side.
Gujarati fansi to serve 2 people:
2 large handfuls of french beans, washed, topped and tailed and chopped into small pieces
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1/4 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
A pinch asafoetida
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder.
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
A good pinch sugar
Salt to taste
Heat the oil in a small lidded wok or frying pan. Once hot, add the mustard seeds. Wait 20 seconds before adding the caraway seeds. Now add the asafoetida, half of the turmeric and half of the chilli powder. Mix well before throwing in the french beans and salt. Stir everything around the pan until the beans are well coated with the oil and spices. Add a tablespoon of water, keep the heat on low/medium and cook with the lid on for around 10 minutes. Now add the ground coriander and cumin, the remaining turmeric and chilli powders, and sugar. Mix well again, put the lid back on, and check if you need to add more water (only to keep it from drying out- there is no sauce in this dish). Cook for another 5-10 minutes.
Deceptively simple, delicious and nutritious.