Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Green beans French-style

I love green beans a lot but my culinary repertoire with them was very limited until I went to live in France for years. In my youth, they were served up plain boiled, as a side dish. On a good day, they were tossed in a little butter. Very occasionally they turned up in a salad nicoise or a navarin. In short, fairly dull.

So - to France. Not long after my arrival, Parisian Boy dished them up this way for supper. It was a revelation and I've been cooking them this way ever since when I've used them as a side dish.

This recipe is simplicity itself. It takes almost no time to prepare and only 10-15 minutes to cook. It goes well with grilled chops or sausages and almost any kind of fish.

What you need: 
A portion of green beans
A couple of ripe tomatoes
A couple of cloves of garlic
Olive oil

What to do:
Slice the garlic thinly. Halve the tomatoes then cut each half into quarters (so you have 8 wedges per tomato). Heat a little olive oil in a heavy frying pan over a low to moderate heat. Tip the garlic and tomatoes together into the oil and stew them gently for about 10-15 minutes until the tomato is breaking down and the garlic has turned translucent.

Meanwhile, top and tail the green beans then put them on to boil. They are ready when they are al dente - about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside until the tomatoes and garlic are ready then toss them through, season to taste and dish up.

Cook's tips: 
It's important not to overheat the frying pan - the garlic especially needs to stew rather than fry - if it starts to caramelise it will add a bitter note to the other ingredients and at that stage it can turn burnt very quickly.

This is a great way to use up leftover vegetables. Overripe tomatoes that are past their best for anything else but not quite beyond use work well here as they will cook down quickly. If you already have some cooked green beans left over in the fridge all you'll need to do is warm them up in the pan with the tomatoes. Even uncooked green beans that are just starting to look a little limp and blotchy can be redeemed this way instead of binned.