Monday, November 8, 2010

Jack and the beanstalk (warm bean salad)

Beans and peas are so ubiquitous that it can be hard to think of them as anything special. That is in fact a driving narrative force in the whole Jack and the Beanstalk story. His mum dismissed those beans and tossed them out the window. The rest is history (or fairytale). Beans, I believe are valourised by this story.* Same goes for peas, cf: The Princess and the Pea.

Beans are magic.

Broadbeans, green beans, peas and sugar-snaps, butter beans. And purple-pink speckled borlotti beans.** All freshly podded or top-and-tailed or de-stringed, according to phylum-order-family-genus-species.

Sweet and crunchy and soft and earthy, fresh legumes are one of the luxuries of spring, a verdant and humble apology for a winter’s age of dried pulses.

* Yeah, ok, arguably the beans are only vindicated by virtue of the access they provided to the golden goose or whatever was at the top of the beanstalk. The moral of the story, to my rather myopic view, is: vegetables are really, really good.
** Tragically, they lose their spots when cooked. And they must be cooked, for at least ten minutes or they might kill you. See magic. Seriously - some beans contain quanities of a lectin called phytohaemagglutinin, which can be quite harmful to humans. Cooking reduces the harmfulfulness. See

Warm spring bean salad

Serves 2

300 gm (unshelled) fresh borlotti beans (you should be left with about 100 gm of shelled beans)
300 gm (unshelled) fresh broad beans (you should be left with about 100 gm of shelled beans)
200 gm (unshelled) fresh peas-in-the-pod
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 5 cm lengths
100 gm green beans, cut into 5 cm lengths (or use a mix of butter beans and green beans)
2 tbsp olive oil
½ Spanish onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbps finely chopped parsley
Celery salt (or plain sea salt)
100g Soft goats cheese or curd or a goat’s milk fetta cheese.

Shell the borlotti beans. Boil in salted water for about 15 to 20 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Drain and reserve.

Shell the broad beans. Blanch in boiling water for about two minutes. Strain and remove the pale skins to reveal the bright green beans. Set aside with the borlotti beans.

Blanch the peas and beans for about three minutes, until just cooked. Strain and set aside with the other beans.

In a large fry pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions and garlic on a medium heat until translucent. Add the asparagus and cook for about three minutes or until the asparagus is just cooked through (but still has a nice crunch). Add the reserved vegetables, the parsley and celery salt and toss until all the vegetable are combined and warm through.

Serve with crumbled goats cheese.

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