I spent quite a lot of time today trying to find the English word for “Valor”. I think it’s called Dolichos Lablab or Hyacinth bean. In some cookbooks, you will see it referred to as Walor, or even Papadi. Chances are if you have ever had a mixed vegetable curry, then you have eaten valor beans.
Green bean shaks are delicious. My favourites include valor and guar (cluster beans). This recipe works well for both though see the variation section below for some small changes when cooking guar. As many westerners may be unfamiliar with Valor, I’ve also included quite a lot of detail on how to select and prepare the beans.
Valor are very similar in appearance to runner and string beans, but the flavour is more intense. The flavour works well with both aubergine and peas but since my husband doesn’t like either of these, I leave them out.
- 300g valor – see below for selection and preparation
- 350 g potatoes – peel, wash and cut into large 3 inch chunks
- 3 small aubergines (use brinjals rather than dutch) – cut in 2 inch chunks – optional
- 1 cup peas – optional
- 2 medium ripe red tomatoes (sorry I forgot to measure the quantities. I’m referring to vine tomatoes as opposed to beef, plum or cherry which do not work in this recipe)
- 5 tbs groundnut oil – yes I know it’s a lot but this shak does well if it’s a little oily
- 1 dried red chili (optional)
- 4 cloves garlic – sliced thinly or crushed
- 1 tsp rye/methi (fenugreek/mustard seeds)
- 1 tsp dhana jeeru (coriander/cumin powder)
- 1/2 lal marcha (red curry powder)
- 1/2 hurder (turmeric)
- 250ml water
- Coriander to garnish
- You local Indian greengrocer will have these in stock
- Select green, firm beans with few blemishes. To check they are not old, try to bend the tip. If it snaps off cleanly, you are fine. If it bends, put it back and walk away.
- The beans need to be stringed. The way to do so is to snap the end off and then pull along the edge. To do the other edge, snap other end off and pull the other edge.
- Once stringed pull apart the two sides of the bean and inspect for worms. Don’t be squeamish, it’s just part of mother nature. I find the beans are lovely looking, often having a purple hue. They also smell of wonderful nature and give the shak a nutty, deep flavour
- If the beans are fine, cut them up into 3 inch pieces
- Once you have done all of the beans, wash them thoroughly
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy based pan over a medium heat. A pressure cooker works well here. Don’t skimp on the oil as I said above, this dish works better when oily
- Drop in the dried chili if using and wait for it to turn blackish
- Throw in the rye / methi and wait for the seeds to start popping
- Add the chilies and garlic and wait until the garlic starts to brown slightly
- Carefully put in the valor (and aubergine / peas if using also) and stir fry in the oil for a few minutes.
- Add the potatoes, tomatoes and spices and combine all thoroughly. Keep turning in the heat for about 3 minutes
- Pour in water. The water should not completely cover the vegetable mix else it will be too runny. You can add more water later if you find the vegies aren’t cooking
- Turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Then turn down to a very low heat and cook for about 20 minutes. Every so often give the shak a stir. Also if the water is all absorbed but the potatoes are still hard, then add a small amount more water.
- The shak is done when the potatoes are cooked – firm but you should be able to push a fork through
- Garnish with coriander and serve with rotlis, roasted poppadums, fresh cut onions and sweets.
Guar or cluster beans are smaller and more delicate in flavour than valor. To select them, choose beans that are green with little marking. Again you can try to snap the end off to see if they are fresh. My brother spends ages picking out young guar and makes a very delicious shak with them.
To prepare the beans, you only need to snap the ends off and cut them into small 1 inch pieces. Inspect and discard any guar with small holes (yes, dreaded insects again!)
The recipe uses less oil (4tbs only) and garlic (2 cloves only).
Also this high soluble vegetable can sometimes cause gas it is sometimes advisable to add 1/4 tsp ajwain (lovage) seeds at same stage as rye methi.