Beans, Beans, Beans, Beans, Lovely Beans …

Colander filled with broadbean pods
Beans just picked

… to paraphrase the well-known Monty Python song.  Usually, by this time of year, I have beans coming out of my ears, but with the cold spring and the summer gale that hammered my climbing French beans, this year’s crop is late.  Which is just as well since, at the moment, I need to concentrate on eating all the cauliflowers and courgettes.  But the beans are just starting up so I’ve been digging about for recipes to use up the forthcoming glut.

A plate of stew
Bean Stew with corn and pea muffins

First up, bean stew. It sounds a bit boring and bland but it really isn’t.  The base is a spicy tomato sauce and if you grow your own tomatoes and onions as well as beans you can make the whole dish without going to the shops.  Gently fry an onion (or some spring onions) in oil until soft.  Add some garlic and a chopped chilli (from your garden) and chopped tomatoes (4 biggish ones) or 4 tbsp tinned chopped tomatoes.  Cook down to a thick sauce which takes 20/30 mins.  Add water, stock or wine if it starts to dry out.  Then add a mixture of cooked beans.  I like a combination of French beans and broad beans, which I used to hate until I discovered you can peel off the tough inner skin.  It’s a bit of a faff but a big improvement.  (Boil podded broad beans for 4-5 mins then drop into cold water.  Slit the skins and squeeze the inner bean out.)  You can add other sorts of bean to this dish, including tinned or cooked dried beans, and sometime I add peas, but I prefer to eat my peas in the form of pea and corn muffins which go really well with the bean stew.  It’s basically this recipe but with peas instead of sweetcorn.

Plates with beans
Beans at the Food and Flower Festival (winner on the left, unplaced, on the right)

But what about all those runner beans?  Well, one brilliant thing to do with six of them is to enter them in the Dundee Food and Flower Festival (but it will have to be next year now).  It costs £4 for up to 10 entries and this gets you a free entry which otherwise costs you £12.  So, a no-brainer.  And if you win 1st, 2nd, or 3rd prize – entirely possible in the runner bean category – you can get up to £2 in prize money!!

A bowl of salad
Bean and chicken salad

It’s getting a bit chilly these days but that’s no reason to give up on salads, especially as beans make great salads.  Here are just a couple of suggestions.  Raw Pea, Broad Bean and Artichoke Salad (use artichokes hearts in oil if you don’t grow your own) and Lentil and Green Bean Salad (a little chopped celery and a couple of spring onions are nice additions.)  Thai Chicken and Runner-bean Salad is one of my favourite main-course salads since it’s a bit different, being served in a thai-flavoured dressing.  As usual I’ve simplified it and use lemon or lime rind instead of lemon grass, and I don’t like fish sauce so miss that out.  Powdered coconut can be used to make the coconut milk or cream.  I also add lots of coriander (from the garden) just before serving.  To make it as low carbon as possible, buy a chicken locally, preferably from a farmer’s market.  Although I keep chickens, I wouldn’t dream of eating one!

I mentioned another of my regular bean dishes in the courgette post – gujerati-style beans.  If you cook the beans in advance this is really quick to make and is a great accompaniment to other curries, or just about anything.  Fry garlic and chilli in a little oil with spices to taste (mustard seeds or cumin seeds). Toss the beans in the flavoured oil until hot.

So who’d bother with spam when you can have beans?  Beans, beans, beans, beans, lovely beans …


  1. Broad, French and Runner are all favourites of mine. Best, I think, if picked while still young. Then you don’t get any stringy bits|

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