Runner bean thoran

Here’s a simple recipe for a runner bean thoran. A thoran being a Keralan stir-fry brimming with delicious life-giving materials: shallots, coconut, curry leaves and whatever garden vegetable happens to be lying around.

Runner beans don’t grow in Kerala, but similar kinds of beans do and this time of year, here in England, runner beans are astoundingly prolific: bursting out of veg patches with freshness, making them a perfect candidate for this dish.

The result is a summery, nourishing but substantial dish that is great by itself (or with chicken or fish) served with fresh hot chapattis and a dollop of yoghurt.


Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

  • 2 tbsp fresh or desiccated coconut
  • 600g runner beans (around 700-750g before trimming)
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 15 curry leaves (fresh can be bought at Ocado and Asian grocers. If you can’t find fresh, leave them out)
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 green finger chilli, thinly sliced
  • 2.5cm ginger, grated
  • 6 shallots, finely sliced
  • 120g baby plum tomatoes, chopped (or just good, ripe toms)
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ¾ tsp salt (or to taste) and ½ tsp ground pepper

If you’re using desiccated coconut, put it in a bowl and cover with a couple of tablespoons of hot water. Leave to soak to one side.

Wash your beans, top and tail them, remove the sides (where the fibrous stringy bits are) and cut into 4cm slices. Leave to one side.

Heat the oil in a large lidded frying pan and when hot add the curry leaves and mustard seeds. When they start to crackle, add the garlic, chilli and ginger. Stir fry for 2 minutes then add the shallots and cook for around 12-15 minutes until they are soft and browning.

Add the tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes then add the turmeric, salt and pepper and stir to mix. Next, throw in the beans and a few tablespoons (50-70ml water), stir and pop the lid on. Cook the beans until they’re soft and have just lost their crunch, which will be around 6-8 minutes. Drain the coconut and fold into the beans. Serve fresh and hot.