Do a runner: Bill Granger cooks with fresh beans
An abundance of fresh beans takes the sting out of summer ending, says Bill Granger. Enjoy them sliced in salads, cooked in their pods, or mashed on toast.
Fried beans have become such a staple of store cupboards that we tend to forget the fresh kind can be a delicacy - and I'm not talking about the ubiquitous green beans most of us throw into our shopping baskets, often regardless of where they're from.
Fresh beans bridge the gap between summer and autumn. They have a crisp, almost cracking crunch and a sweet, earthy taste that I'd go so far as to say is unrivalled in the vegetable world – peas, perhaps, being the exception. The best I had recently were some exceptionally good runner beans in Cornwall; not the floppy sort, but truly "just picked". These beans are made for salads, while other pulses are deliciously satisfying simply mashed on to garlicky toast or used in a substantial seafood soup.
Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co, is at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7229 9111, grangerandco.com
The little legumes and clams in this soup get on like old friends. It's a real treat to eat whole young flageolet beans while the pods are still nice and tender. If the ones you have are older, pop the beans out of the pods, or use fine green beans instead.
Flageolet bean and clam soup
200g/7oz fresh young flageolet beans in their pods, trimmed (or use a fine bean of your choice)
1 knob butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 bay leaf
200ml/7fl oz fino sherry if you have some, or dry white wine
2kg clams, shells cleaned
200ml /7fl oz good hot fish stock
3 tbsp double cream
Small bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Cook the beans in a pan of boiling salted water for 3 minutes, drain and set aside.
Heat the butter and oil in a large pan with a lid that can hold all of the clams. Add the shallots, garlic and bay leaf then cook until soft but without colour. Add the beans and stir to coat with onion then increase the heat and add the fino. Bubble for a few minutes to reduce and burn off some of the alcohol. Tip in the clams, put the lid on the pan, give it a good shake and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the clams have opened.
Discard any closed clams. Pour in the hot fish stock and cream and stir to distribute through the clams and beans. Scatter with parsley before serving with lots of crusty bread to soak up the juices.
Minted runner-bean salad and lamb rump
This herby, zingy salad makes a lovely, late-summer partner for the lamb and has a satisfyingly starchy element. Which means you can save the potatoes and roast parsnips for winter.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 x 400g lamb rumps, trimmed For the minted beans
500g runner beans, string removed and thinly sliced
1 shallot, finely chopped
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch mint, leaves picked and chopped
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
50g toasted hazelnuts, chopped
Heat the oven to 200C/400F. Mix the oil and garlic then rub all over the lamb and set aside for 10 minutes. Heat a griddle or barbecue to hot, sear the lamb all over for about 10 minutes, or until brown. Transfer to the oven and cook for 10 minutes for rare meat. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the beans in boiling salted water for 3 minutes, drain and refresh. Mix the shallot, orange juice and zest, vinegar and olive oil with some seasoning and pour over the beans while they are still warm. Toss in the mint, parsley and hazelnuts, serve with thinly sliced lamb and a green salad if you like.
Smashed borlotti beans on toast
Like a coarser, more delicious alternative to the ubiquitous hummus, these mushed beans on toast are ideal as a weekend lunch with a glass of gutsy red wine and best followed with a snooze – there's not much to clear up.
8 slices sourdough bread
4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2 garlic cloves, 1 roughly chopped, 1 whole
400g/13oz borlotti beans, podded weight
6 anchovy fillets
Zest of 1 lemon, plus squeeze of juice
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
8 slices Parma ham
Heat oven to 200C/400F. Place bread on baking sheets and drizzle over olive oil, cook for 10 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Remove from oven, rub all over with the whole garlic clove. Set aside.
Cook the beans in boiling salted water for 10 minutes, or until just tender. Drain and cool under cold water. Put the beans in a mortar and pestle with the chopped garlic, anchovies and lemon zest, smash until well mixed but still chunky.
Add some salt and pepper, lemon juice and about 4 tablespoons of olive oil, then stir in the parsley and chilli. Lay Parma ham on a slice of toast, pile on some smashed beans, top with more toast and eat.
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