This Usili is from Meenakshi Ammal’s second volume of Cook and See. In Meenakshi Ammal’s book it is called Paruppu Puttu, or scrambled lentils. Usili (or usli) also means scrambled – confusing for us at times, but different states, regions, towns, even families in India will hold different traditions, not the least in the naming of dishes. Just part of the wonderful rich tapestry which is India. There is more information on lentil crumble types here.
This lentil crumble recipe is made with beans, but you can also use other vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, grated carrot, banana flower, other types of beans such as cluster beans or broad beans, or indeed, without any vegetable at all. In fact you can make the crumble by following the recipe, then freeze it, ready to add to a vegetable when the need arises.
This is definitely a dish to fall in love with. It is easy to make yet utensil heavy (WARNING) using a Grinder to grind the lentils (I used my spice grinder), a Steamer to steam the ground lentils, a Saucepan to cook the green beans, a blender and/or food processor to pulse the steamed lentils, a Pan to saute the spices with the lentil crumble and beans, and various bowls and stirring spoons or ladles. Prepare your dishwasher or sink in advance and wash up as you go.
But it is worth the work for this interesting, textural and flavoursome dish, great accompaniment to other Sth Indian dishes. Try with rice and a rasam, kuzhambu or sambar. Or eat them alone as a snack (very delicious).
Often I will just saute the beans in longer lengths, in a little ghee until just tender and bright green. Then they are set them aside while the tadka is made in the same pan and the crumble sauteed. The beans are then added to the golden crumble.
It can be eaten hot or at room temperature, either is delicious.
Green Beans Paruppu Usili/Puttu | Green Beans with Lentil Crumble
Source : from Cook and See Part 1, by S. Meenakshi Ammal
Cuisine: South Indian, Tamil
Prep time: about 20 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins for lentils and 10 sauteing
Serves: 3 – 4 people depending how you are using it. It makes about 3 cups.
approx 400g or so green beans
0.5 cup channa dal or use 0.25 cup each of channa dal and toor dal
5 dried red chillies
0.5 tspn asafoetida
1 tspn mustard seeds
0.25 tspn turmeric
sprig curry leaves
2 tspn ghee or Indian sesame oil
salt to taste
Soak the lentils with the dried red chillies in water for at least an hour. Overnight is Ok, and I have soaked for up to 24 hours.
Drain well and grind the lentils and chillies along with the asafoetida, turmeric and tspn salt to a coarse paste. You should not need to use water at all. I used my spice grinder and did it in two batches. This works very well.
You need to steam the lentil paste. If you have an idli steamer with trays, use that. Otherwise, grease a flat plate with a little ghee, spread the mixture onto it, and place on top of an upturned bowl in a large pan. The pan should have sufficient water in it, but not enough to reach the plate or plates of lentils. Bring the water to the boil, cover the pan, reduce the heat to a simmer, and steam the lentils for 15 minutes. If they do not appear sufficiently cooked at this point, steam for another 5 minutes. Make sure that your steamer does not run out of water.
When the lentils are cooked, remove from the steamer and allow to cool.
While your lentils are cooking, string the beans if they need it, top and tail them, and cut or break into 1/4″ pieces. I break them into slightly bigger pieces for a rustic look, but for a more consistent look it is good to chop them.
Simmer the chopped beans in a little boiling water with a pinch of salt until just cooked and still bright green. Drain, run some cold water over them to arrest the cooking, drain again and set aside.
Now you can either crumble the lentils by hand or for a more consistent and finer crumble, pulse them for few seconds in a food processor. My rustic nature means larger crumbs but finer and consistent crumbs look very beautiful with the beans.
Heat the ghee or oil in a pan. When it is hot, add the black mustard seeds and allow them to pop. Add the curry leaves (be careful, they will splutter) and allow to cook for 20 seconds. Add the crumbled lentils and saute until they turn a beautiful golden brown with a beautiful aroma.
Now add the beans and saute with the crumble until they are well mixed.
Check the seasoning, then serve and enjoy! (Or leave to cool, and enjoy later.)
recipe notes and alternatives
The crumble can be made ahead of time, and frozen, ready to add to any vegetable when the need arises. You can use cabbage, broccoli, shredded carrot, banana flower, or other types of beans such as cluster beans and broad beans.