Summer Runner Beans With Tomatoes

I’m a person who thinks that most vegetables, especially those which have just been picked from the garden, don’t need too much messing around with. There are few vegetables that don’t respond well to blanching or steaming, a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemons. But let’s be honest, sometimes we fancy a change.

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Any of you who grow your own vegetables will be faced at some point with a glut. While we are in England we are only managing to grow a few things. The tomatoes are STILL green and with only 3 runner bean plants, we’re not exactly dealing with kilos of them.

Runner Beans (1)

However, lovely fresh and sweet tomatoes from the next door county of Kent are being devoured daily and I decided to make a quick and fresh summer vegetable dish. Delicious as a side dish, or serve it at room temperature with some cheese and salamis, plenty of crusty bread and (of course) a chilled glass of wine.

Ingredients

  • About 200g runner beans, shredded or cut into chunks and blanched in salted, boiling water for about 3 minutes
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped or crushed
  • A few generous glugs of olive oil
  • About 4 ripe tomatoes (peeled or not, you decide), finely chopped, puréed or grated
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Half a teaspoon of smoked pimentón
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary (optional)

Slowly warm your olive oil in a small deep pan (if you have an earthenware cazuela, even better) into which you have put the chopped garlic. Once the garlic has softened, but not browned, and your kitchen is filled with wonderful warm garlicky smells, add the tomato, a little seasoning, the rosemary and the pimentón.

Continue to cook gently for two or three minutes until it all starts to come together, then add the blanched beans. Cook for a further couple of minutes to allow the beans to soften a little more, but not lose their colour.

Leave to cool down slightly, best served at room temperature.

And now a cloud shot from the other day – I just thought it was so weird and beautiful. I’m sure there is a special name for this kind of cloud formation, please do enlighten me if you know!

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If you enjoy runner beans, why not try runner beans with garlic and bacon or perhaps with prawns and potatoes?

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Gigantes Plakis – Greek Style Giant Baked Beans

So, as you probably can guess, Gigantes refers to the size of the beans! And Plaki (I think) means that it’s something cooked in the oven or baked. Now, I’m not claiming that my version of this dish is authentically Greek. I’ve seen several versions, some which involved a few extra steps in the process, but here’s my interpretation of a delicious vegetarian dish which can be served as is, or as part of a meze. And you don’t even have to stress about it being served piping hot, Greek food is often dished up at room temperature!

Gigantes Plakis (4)

Ingredients (to serve 4)

  • 500g of large white beans (I used butter beans but others that can be used are lima beans) soaked overnight in water with a small pinch of bicarbonate of soda
  • About 500g of a simple tomato sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, some finely chopped celery (if you have it) and some chopped fresh parsley

Rinse the beans, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Fast boil for 10 minutes, skim off any scum and reduce to a simmer for about an hour – you want them almost cooked but not quite.

Heat the oven to medium (about 160 degrees) and make sure your tomato sauce is hot. Drain the beans.

Gigantes Plakis (1)

Stir the beans and the tomato sauce together and put into an ovenproof dish. Bake for about 1 ½ – 2 hours until the beans are tender and a little dry/crispy on top. You may need to add a little water during cooking. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary, add a little extra chopped parsley if you like and sit back and wait for them to cool down a little. Or just eat them piping hot and hope that no one reports you….

French beans, asparagus and mangetout with chopped almonds and lime

Another Ottolenghi inspired recipe – his calls for roasted chopped hazlenuts and orange. Hey, you do what you can with what you have on hand and “wow” it was so good!

This was a dish I took along to a barbecue but with a little grilled meat or some hard boiled eggs (for a vegetarian meal) would make a very delicious and satisfying light lunch or supper dish.

Ottolenghi Beans (1)

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 400g of trimmed French beans chopped and lightly boiled
  • 400g mangetout lightly boiled
  • 1 bunch asparagus chopped and lightly boiled
  • 70g chopped or flaked almonds, dry toasted in a frying pan
  • 2 limes – zested and the juice squeezed out
  • 20g chopped parsley
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Simply mix together the lime zest, juice, olive oil and seasoning and add to the beans and mangetout. Sprinkle over the almonds, mix, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve at room temperature.

 

Olive Oil Pastry – So simple, even I couldn’t mess it up….

I love pastry but am mostly too lazy to make it. Except at Christmas, when I make Clara’s Shortcrust Pastry. And sometimes I use it to make quiche.

Perhaps I don’t make it that often because

  1. In Spain, getting hold of butter and keeping it fresh before it reaches my fridge is a saga in itself
  2. In England, I’m either too busy ripping out nasty bathrooms or it’s easier to pop to the supermarket and buy it ready made (oops, did I just admit that in public?!)

Enough of this nonsensical pastry avoidance, Chica. Pull yourself together and make it with olive oil! So of course, I did. And you know what? It’s so easy, and so tasty, and so silky and forgiving should you break it (what, me?!) that I suspect we’ll be eating a lot more of it in the next few months. And also, with only 2 tablespoons of oil in a 4 person serving, it really can’t be bad for you, can it?

Veggie Garden Pie with Olive Oil Pastry

Ingredients to line a 24cm (9.2 inch) flan tin with enough left over to make a few cheese and marmite nibbles (my grandmother always used to make these as a treat with the leftover scraps of pastry), this is what you need:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 tbs olive oil (30ml)
  • Up to 4 tbs iced water (60ml)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt

I made mine in my food processor, but if making by hand, follow the same steps, it will only take you a couple of minutes longer.

Blend the flour and salt together then add the olive oil and blitz (or rub with your fingers) for a few seconds. Slowly add the water with the motor running but stop as soon as the mixture clumps together.

Press the mixture into a ball and chill (optional) for half an hour wrapped in cling film.

Cheese & Marmite Nibbles

You can roll this pastry out really thinly if you like, it behaves well. Use it to make your favourite quiches and pies. I made a vegetable pie with a filling of sautéed peppers, onions, tomatoes and blanched runner beans which sat on top of a mix of 2 tablespoons of cream cheese with one beaten egg, and topped wth sliced tomato.

And because pastry is rather dull to look at (never start a sentence with the word “and” Chica), I thought I’d show you a lovely photo from New Zealand, taken way too many years ago!

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Bean meaning to mention…..

Beans! Well, not just beans but Winter salads.  Winter doesn´t have to mean an end to fresh delicious salads, but the colder weather means we probably want something a little more robust but no less fresh and delicious to eat as a light meal or to accompany grilled meats, fish or whatever takes your fancy.

Especially after Christmas, and all that heavy food, these are welcome light meals to ease the strain on the waistband. And talking of Christmas, belated greetings to you all and apologies for the silence. Almost regular service will be resumed this week, and I hope that you all had a wonderful time with your loved ones, I will be slowly catching up with your blog posts over the next week or so.

Anyway, back to the food.  We´ve been trying to support local shops as much as possible and to buy locally grown, seasonal vegetables in the absence of our own veggie garden or store cupboard. Sometimes though, you just have to give into cravings and buy things that are out of season or grown elsewhere. Green beans seem to be everywhere in the supermarkets now, along with mange tout and runner beans. Maybe it´s my body craving something fresh and crunchy that makes me respond to the vibrant green colour. Who knows, but the beans were delicious!

Ingredients are flexible in these two tasty dishes, they´re just meant to inspire you, not dictate to you. Use what you have available, enjoy the fresh flavours.

Bean & asparagus salad (1)

Green Bean and Asparagus Salad

  • Blanch green beans and asparagus until just tender, then run under cold water to stop them cooking further. Chop into bite sized pieces, add halved cherry tomatoes, a chopped avocado and some hard boiled egg. Sprinkle over some sliced jamon or grilled bacon (leave out for a veggie version) and dress a mix of with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, English mustard, a pinch of sugar and seasoning.

 Potato, bean & caper salad (4)

Potato, Roasted Red Pepper, Bean and Caper Salad

  • Mix together cubed boiled potatoes, strips of roasted red peppers, green beans and halved caper berries.  Make a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and zest and salt and pepper. Mix the salad gently. As a little added luxury, drizzle over some truffle oil.

Fabada – Asturian Sausage and Beans

When we travelled to the distant north of Spain, we bought back some foodie memories with us. Well, a little more than memories, we bought back beans and smoked meats to make the famous Fabada.

It´s one of those dishes which needs the authentic smoked blood sausage (morcilla), chorizo and pork to achieve the “real” taste, but it also lends itself to “making do” depending on the ingredients you have to hand.

The ingredients given below can be interpreted fairly loosely to make a lovely bean, ham and sausage stew if you can´t get hold of the Asturian versions.  I also like to be lighter with the meat than some people, so feel free to add more. This recipe will serve six as a main course, but it does keep well for about 5 days in the fridge.

You´ll need

  • 1kg of Fabes (or any large dried white beans)
  • 1 small blood sausage
  • 1 or 2 chorizo (depending on the size)
  • About 100g piece of smoked or unsmoked or salted pancetta or pork belly (or use chunky lardons)
  • ½ teaspoon of saffron or add a teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika or pimentón instead
  • 2 bay leaves

This dish really improves by making it the day before you want to eat it, although it´s not essential, and if you have an earthenware bowl to cook it in, even better!  The day before making the dish put your beans into soak in plenty of water.  In a separate bowl of water soak any smoked or salted meats.

Using the water you soaked the beans in, put them in your cooking pot with about a depth of  3cm of water above them.  Bring to the boil then skim off the froth which will appear. Dissolve the saffron in a little water and add to the beans (or add your pimentón or paprika directly to the water).  Now add the pork belly or pancetta, bring to the boil and skim and then repeat with the chorizo and morcilla.

Add the bay leaves, make sure all the meat is pushed to the bottom and then cook very slowly for about 2 or 3 hours.  Try not to stir as this will break the beans, shake the pot if necessary and top up with boiling water if needed.

You should be left with thick creamy beans which still hold their shape.  I like to thinly slice the meats and sausages so they can easily be eaten with a spoon.  This is a “plato de cuchara” or a “spoon dish” as they call it here.

Serve with a good robust red wine, plenty of bread and I like a tomato and garlic salad on the side. ¡Buen Provecho!