Mama’s Punjabi Recipes: Aloo Frans Bean (Potatoes and Green Beans)




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The lowly aloo (potato) is not so low on the culinary scale for Indian food as it is, by far, the most used vegetable in desi cooking. You find it in samosas, paranthas, rice biryani, daals, curries, chaats, pakoras, cutlets, sautéed with other vegetables and, of course, cooked in many ways on its own. It is probably used in more dishes in Indian cooking than in any other variety of cuisines.
But sadly, even though potatoes are loaded with vitamin C and potassium, they are full of carbohydrates in the form of starch, are classified as high glycemic and so are not suited to individuals on a low sugar diet. Still, this doesn’t deter Indians from eating aloo without any concern; in fact they often eat them with lots of other heavy carbohydrates, like white rice, rotis (flat bread) and puris (fried breads).
Indians do, however, mitigate the carbs with other vegetables, especially when sautéed alone and this recipe, with frans bean is just one of them which is hugely popular in North Western India as it is easy and fast to make.
Interestingly enough, most Indians do not give any thought to the name referring to France. The bean evolved from its origins in Central America and made its way to India through French colonizers. It is cultivated in Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh Hills, Nilgiri (Tamil Nadu) and Palni (Kerala) hills,Chickmagalur (Karnataka) and Darjeeling hills (West Bengal).

1 lb frans bean (French beans)
4 medium aloo (potatoes) (white or red, not Russet)
2 tablespoons of vegetable or  olive oil
1 tsp haldi (turmeric)
1 tsp rai (rye)
Spices to taste: namak (salt), mirch (red pepper), garam masala

1. Cut the ends of the beans and then cut them into ½ inch pieces. Do not peel the potatoes but cut them in cubes the size you prefer.

2. Place the beans and potatoes in a bowl and wash them thoroughly. Let them soak in water so that the potatoes don’t turn dark.

3.  Heat the oil in a medium skillet, wok or khadai. Throw in the rye, turmeric and let it roast for a minute.

4. Drain the beans and potatoes through a strainer, add to the skillet and stir well to coat them with the masala. Be sure to add salt and red pepper at this point, to your taste. Cover the skillet well and cook over medium heat.

5. Do not put in any water. The vegetables will cook in their own steam so let them cook covered for 10 minutes. Check to seek that they are tender and stir gently to make sure they are sticking to the bottom. Turn the heat to very low and then let cook covered in their own steam for 5 more minutes.

6. Turn the heat off and leave covered to let the vegetables cook for 3 more minutes. Uncover the skillet and sprinkle with a little garam masala and let it sit covered for a while to let the taste and aroma of the garam masala seep through. This dish is best eaten with roti or naan.



Indian pickles are usually very spicy and made with lots of oils, among them mustard seed oil. Most of them also contain lots of salt and aren’t suitable for many older people who live on a salt restricted diet. Although my mother and the older generation made pickles the old-fashioned way – especially ambh da achaar (green mango) or mitha achaar (sweet and sour vegetable pickle), this was time consuming and is not practiced much anymore by the younger generation in the cities.

For many years while I lived overseas, I turned to making achaars which were healthier and much simpler to make, like nimbu-mirch-adrak (lemon-green pepper-ginger). One of the chief ingredients to use, instead of namak (salt) is sirka (white wine vinegar), which is readily and cheaply available. The other advantage is that it allows the achaar to stay good for many weeks and even months in the fridge.


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Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.