Sometimes, I just want one vegetable: I don’t want an elegant spread, a carefully arranged medley, a balanced mix. This is the time for a dish with a single feature vegetable. A few vegetables stand up well to this spotlight treatment (asparagus leaps to mind), but at our place, it is the good old green bean that most often gets to carry a dish on its own. Here’s a favourite weeknight recipe we often make to celebrate glorious green beans. If you can find and afford them, baby beans do take this dish up a notch. But if not, the best bog-standard green round beans do the trick just nicely.

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Spicy green beans with tamari almonds
Adapted from Vegie Food

1 long red chilli, finely chopped (seeded if you want less heat)
2 cm fresh ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
350g green beans, trimmed
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 tbsp mirin
3 tbsp tamari roasted almonds*, roughly chopped (about 50g)
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan, and cook the chilli, ginger and garlic for 1 minute, until lightly browned.

Add the beans, hoisin sauce and sugar: stir-fry for 2-3 mins, until the beans are bright green and almost cooked.

Stir in the mirin, and cook for a further minute: the beans should now be just cooked but still crunchy.

Remove from the heat and stir in the almonds.

Serve with plain jasmine rice, or great with coconut rice (below).

* available from health food shops, or use raw natural almonds.

My grandma’s coconut rice

When I called my grandma to confirm her method for cooking this rice, she explained that it is basically a variation to the liquids you use for cooking jasmine rice, with some extra seasonings thrown in. It should work whatever method you use, but the quantities below were developed for the nifty microwave rice cooker she gave me. Theoretically, they should also work with any other absorption-type method (eg conventional rice cooker, or stove-top) where all the liquid you put in goes into the rice (rather than being drained off at the end or evaporating during cooking). The basic idea is that you substitute 25% of the water volume with coconut milk. So, for example, if you would normally use 1.5 cups (375mL) of water for 1 cup of rice, then use about 90mL coconut milk and 285mL water instead of all water. Then you season (see recipe below), stir it all together and cook as you would normally.

Here are the quantities for my microwave cooker – this will serve 3-4 people. (The quantities sound strange in metric cups, but we’ve gotten used to using this strange 150mL cup that came with the steamer. If you too have one of these cups, then it’s simply 2 cups rice, 1 cup coconut milk, 3 cups water)

1 1/3 cups rice
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
good pinch of sugar
1-2 kaffir lime leaves
1-2 slices galangal

Stir everything together, then microwave on high for 15 mins. Leave to rest for a few minutes, gently stir to separate the grains, then it’s ready to serve.

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