ENJOYING A BEAN FEAST
Runner beans are synonymous with gluts, especially in a decent summer. You’re forced into picking them, as once large pods set, the flowering ‘mechanism’ will stop – it’s done its job and set seed.
Unfortunately, they’re easy to get sick of. Here’s some ideas to keep the family happy.
PARMESAN ROASTED RUNNER BEANS
- Allow approximately 6oz (150g) of trimmed beans per person.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- North Shields smoked garlic sea salt* (or ordinary will do)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Good sprinkling paprika
- 4-6oz (100-150g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Pecorino Romano or Gran Padano will work)
Preheat oven to 220 degrees C, or Gas Mark 7. Line a baking tray with foil. Top and tail the beans, and then put them in a freezer bag.
Pour the oil into the bag, then add the salt, pepper and paprika. Shake the bag to make sure everything is mixed and covered with oil.
Leave the mixture to marinate for 15-20 minutes (or while your oven heats up).
Pour the mixture evenly on to the tray and bake for 10 minutes. Shake the tray again to turn them, then give them another five minutes.
Remove from oven, grate cheese over the top and serve.
*For stockists and more information, log on to www.boulevardcuisine.co.uk.
ROASTED RUNNER BEANS
2lb (1kg) runner beans
- Enough extra-virgin olive oil to coat beans
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C, Gas Mark 6.
Wash, dry and top and tail beans, removing any strings.
Put beans on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Make sure the beans are evenly coated and spread out into one layer.
Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning after 15 minutes, until beans have brown spots – this may sound odd, but they taste great.
Antipasto runner beans
It’s a bit of a cheat this one, but one I found by accident. I roasted a massive tin of runner beans, far too many for us to eat, so I let them cool and put them in the fridge.
Turns out they’re brilliant cold, the flavours really develop, especially on the beans that have been cooked long enough to get brown patches (the sugars inside are caramelising).
They make a lovely antipasto ingredient – serve them with sunblush tomatoes, salami, olives and ciabatta for lunch or a sharing first course.
DRYING RUNNER BEANS
If you live in a dry climate, you can let the bean pods mature and dry on the plants, but that’s rarely possible in the UK.
The full-grown pods should turn yellow and dry, but if the weather is damp in October and mould becomes a problem, dig up the whole plant and hang it upside down in a warm place to dry.
I use the paired beans to hang over staging in the conservatory to dry.
A word of caution – dried beans have a concentration of the toxin lectin phytohaemagglutinin that must be removed by cooking.
A recommended method is to boil the beans for at least 10 minutes; under-cooked beans may be more toxic than raw ones.
Flatulence caused by beans can be eased by cooking them with summer savory, anise, coriander or cumin.
To reconstitute, remove discoloured and shrivelled beans or debris.
Put them into a bowl approximately three times the size of the quantity you have to allow for expansion.
Cover with water and leave overnight. Add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda if you live in a hard water area – DO NOT add salt.
When the beans have reconstituted, rinse them thoroughly a couple of times with clean water then cover with fresh water, bring to the boil and simmer until they’re soft-ish – start trying them after about an hour.
If they are still hard or gritty, give them another 30 minutes.
Dried beans will keep in an airtight jar for at least a year and you can safely germinate a new crop from two-year-old saved beans.