Thursday, 30 June 2011

What do I do with... green beans?

You very probably already know this, but in case you don't: you're supposed to eat the pod part of a green bean, too. Unlike other beans, you don't eat just the seed-bit and throw away the outside.

Green beans are readily available in frozen or canned form, but they're so easy to cook, and no initial faff is required, so you might as well buy them fresh and score all the extra nutrients.

I was always non-plussed by the fact that the package labels on green beans in UK supermarkets advise one not to eat them raw. All through my childhood, it was the norm to help ourselves to the green beans and carrots growing in my grandfather's vegetable garden. The beans were eaten as is. The carrots were first given a wash under the garden tap.

I can only think that fears of some dread foreign disease were behind the caution (witness the recent E-coli hoo-ha). But I live dangerously and carry right on eating raw green beans - even those that come from the supermarket!

So, if you're ready for a life on the edge, you can eat them raw, too. Just like that, or chopped up into a salad. Or dipped in houmous. Mmmm. Hust give them a good rinse first.

Otherwise you can boil or steam them (whole or sliced). You can steam them in your microwave or on the hob. Give me a shout if you're not sure about how to do either of those. Don't keep going until the life and goodness have been cooked out them, though! Ugh - the memories of grey beans at boarding school.... shudder.

Some people struggle with the fact that cooked green beans 'squeak on your teeth'. And it's true - they sometimes do. I have a son with tactile issues and green beans were always a challenge for him. I found that cooking them just that little bit longer solved the problem (as does eating them raw).

I once knew a woman who had worked as an au pair in Greece where she had learned to prepare green beans like this:

Blanch them (dip them in boiling water for a couple of minutes), then stir fry them with some crushed garlic in olive oil. Add a little lemon juice for zing. Verrrrry nice!

Then an Afrikaans friend used to mix them up with roughly mashed potato, which she sprinkled with pepper. I have to say, though, that she boiled the poor beans to death first.

Another very popular Afrikaans dish is groenboontjiebredie (green bean stew - and oh boy, did I struggle to find a decent English recipe for you!), which you might like to try one cold evening.

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