3 fantastic green bean recipes
Turn a bean overload into three fantastic summer dishes.
Words: Kristina Jensen
The snap in my mouth of the first green bean of the season has a very special significance for me and always reminds me of another snap. I have a picture of myself in my head made up out of my mother’s stories with a little snippet of reality in the form of a faded photograph of me as a very small child. In this photo, a round-cheeked tot (me), wearing a gigantic blue sun bonnet, sits eating dirt in the vegetable garden while Mum tends her patch in the background.
My mum, Nancy, delighted in announcing to guests that if she plonked me down next to the bean fence when I was this wee tike, I would proceed to eat beans until I was sick! I must have quit throwing up after eating beans a long time ago because I love beans and can’t wait for the first ones to appear. Every time I go out to plant or harvest beans I think of that photo, and of me and Mum hanging out under the bean fence.
It was Mum who got me into growing beans and now that she’s passed on, I feel a bit like the Keeper Of The Beans. She collected and saved quite a variety, including a purple tiger-striped Dalmatian one called Lesley’s Beans (I’m not quite sure who Lesley was but her beans are very good!) and some little goodies called Pea Beans which have to be one of the most prolific producers I’ve ever come across – they just keep on going and going, even when it’s dry!
Every year Mum would lament the quantity of these beans on her fence and would wish out loud on the phone that I were closer so that I could come relieve her of a few kilos. One year she had so many beans of another sort that she let them dry, shucked the beans out of the pods and presented me with over 2kg of dried beans that were really good in winter stews. I’m afraid I would have to plant a hell of a lot of beans to be able to do that because between my husband and I, fresh green beans don’t last too long around here.
I have added to my collection beans from my friend Ali, long flat Italian ones that are just the best to eat fresh, and my own particular favourite, runner beans. I think they might have been the ones I apparently grew/threw up on but that experience seems to have only served to make me love them more. The only one left that I’d like to get hold of is a purple climber (like the ones pictured above), grown on D’Urville Island by our friends Pip and Jeanette Aplin who have been pioneering out there for over 30 years.
I have to admit a bias for climbing beans. They go up and that leaves lots of ground space for other stuff. I love growing all the varieties together, making a fence that is a real delight to harvest, a sort of bean pick ‘n mix. Son Theo and I go out every day to check on every bean’s progress: who is climbing fastest, when the first flowers come out. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like beans but he loves watching them grow. Maybe I should try the ‘eat till you puke’ method with him.
RECIPE: BEANS IN POULETTE SAUCE
Having a roast chicken for dinner? Throw the bones and carcass in a pot, boil the hell out of it for two hours, strain off the hot liquid into a jug and there’s your chicken stock for this recipe. This is a deliciously creamy bean dish, tasting great with all those fresh herbs.
500g green beans
2 tsp flour
1 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (chives, marjoram, parsley, summer savoury)
1 egg yolk
1 ½ tbsp lemon juice
Top and tail beans and steam until just tender. Melt butter in a small saucepan, stir in flour and gradually whisk in chicken stock. Return to heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Season and add fresh herbs, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Beat egg yolk with the lemon juice. Remove saucepan from heat, let it cool for 15 minutes, then stir in egg mixture and reheat without boiling. Pour sauce over cooked beans in a nice serving dish and garnish with chopped parsley.
RECIPE: ONION AND RUNNER BEAN PICKLE
This is adapted from Liz Burn’s recipe, found in an old Women’s Weekly. If you’ve got loads of runner beans, don’t hesitate a moment longer – get busy and make a big pot of this amazing pickle that will disappear in seconds as soon as you open the jar. Simmering the beans in vinegar completely changes their taste for the better. Makes 4-6 medium sized jars.
750g peeled sliced onions
1kg runner beans, sliced into 2cm pieces
600ml white vinegar plus extra
2 cups chopped dates
2 level tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp hot curry powder
½ tbsp turmeric
2 tbsp dry mustard powder
1 tbsp Cajun spice
300g brown sugar
Simmer beans and onions in 600ml of vinegar in a covered pot for about 15 minutes until tender. Mix cornflour with turmeric, curry powder, Cajun spice and mustard in a little of the remaining vinegar. Add to the pan with the sugar, dates and more of the vinegar if you think it is required. Bring to the boil, stirring. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Spoon into warm sterilised jars.
RECIPE: SQUEAKY SUMMER BEANS
This is one of my husband’s favourite bean dishes, Greek-style, combining the best of summer tastes: tomatoes, green beans and basil. Basically, you are steaming the flavours into the beans, a delicate and fragrant process. Serve hot over pasta or rice, or as a cold side dish on a hot day. They were named Squeaky Beans by our young friend Tasman, because they do in fact squeak a bit on your teeth while you eat them.
1kg green beans, top and tailed
½ cup olive oil
2 onions, sliced thinly
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
3 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano or ½ tsp dried
5-7 large leaves of fresh basil, chopped
salt and fresh ground pepper
Heat oil in a large saucepan and gently fry onions and garlic with the cumin powder until pale and golden. Place beans on top of onions, then tomatoes, basil and parsley. Sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and simmer for 20-25 minutes, checking water level half way through – add a little more if needed.