Three bean salad recipe: A staple in the states to bring summer parties under your control

​Julia Platt Leonard regains control of the chaos that can be summer parties with a delicious and dependable three bean salad

Julia Platt Leonard
Wednesday 13 July 2016 11:20 BST
Salads are the perfect counterpoint to any summer party
Salads are the perfect counterpoint to any summer party

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Summer entertaining is filled with enough unknowns – weather topping the list – you don’t need to invite any more to the party. Salads are one place where you can wrestle back control and feel like you’re not totally at the mercy of the elements or that strange neighbour you decided to invite in a moment of weakness.

Increasingly people are sitting up (or standing if you don’t have enough chairs) and noticing what you serve along with the burgers, steak and sausages. And well they should. Salads are the perfect counterpoint – a bit of crispness, texture and tartness that wakes up the taste buds.

The key is to make as many of them ahead of time as you can. Or – and this is important – as far along as you can. Take this three bean salad. It’s a play on the classic vinegary salad by the same name that is a party favourite in the states. But I’ve given it a mustardy dill vinaigrette instead and used three of my top beans: green, runner and broad. Having said that, I don’t think I’ve met a bean I didn’t like.

Green, runner and broad beans are good options but any bean will be at home in this dish
Green, runner and broad beans are good options but any bean will be at home in this dish (Julia Leonard)

Early on party day, I blanch the beans in boiling salted water. Because I’m incredibly efficient or simply very lazy, I use the same pot of water to cook all three. As they’re different shapes and sizes, I cook them separately then scoop the cooked beans out, pop them into a colander in the kitchen sink and refresh them under very cold water. I cook the broad beans last, because sometimes they turn the water dark.

The cold water stops them from cooking any further (an overcooked bean is one of life’s great tragedies) and preserves the bright green colour. Once all three are cooked, they can be stashed in the fridge until party time. When your guests have arrived (including the creepy neighbour), you can toss the beans in the vinaigrette.

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Don’t dump the vinaigrette on like you’re making your rendition of a Jackson Pollock painting. An overdressed salad is another tragedy up there with the overcooked bean. When you put the salad outside (if it’s not already raining that is), the dressing will start to swim. You want only enough to gently coat the beans. You can always place some extra vinaigrette in a bowl for people to help themselves, if they’d like more.

That’s it. A bit of prep, a short amount of cooking time and you’re sorted. Of course a gorgeous salad won’t do anything to make the weather better or keep problematic guests at bay but then again, nothing will.

Three bean salad

This salad features three different beans: green, runner and broad. Feel free to use a different bean, or to vary the amounts of each if you prefer one bean more than another. Frankly, I love them all! For the vinaigrette, I like the sweet-sour tones of white balsamic vinegar but you could substitute white wine vinegar instead.

Serves 4 or more as a side dish

240g green beans
240g runner beans
450g broad beans in the pod


1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
2 ½ Tbsp olive oil 
20g dill, chopped
Salt & pepper

Rinse the green beans and runner beans. Top the green beans, snapping off a bit at the stem end. Leave the curly tail intact. Place the green beans in boiling salted water and blanch until just done – about 2-3 minutes. While the green beans are cooking, slice the runner beans into pieces about 4cm each.

When the green beans are done, scoop them out of the water and quickly refresh under very cold water. Next, drop the runner beans into the boiling water and cook until done. Again, this will take only a few minutes.

While the runner beans are cooking, remove the broad beans from their pod. When the runner beans are done, refresh them under cold water as you did for the green beans. Last but not least, place the broad beans in the boiling water. Cooking time will vary depending on how large your broad beans are – the best way to know is to check one after a minute or so. They should remain firm (not mushy) but not tough.

When done, you can strain them and run cold water over them. Once they’re cool enough to handle, remove the pale outer skin. Some people leave the casing on smaller beans but I think it looks and tastes better without.

Wrap all the beans in a few sheets of kitchen roll or a clean kitchen towel to remove any water. Set them aside. To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the mustard and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle in the olive oil and whisk to create a smooth vinaigrette. Add salt and pepper, taste, and adjust the seasoning.

Place all the beans on a large platter. Sprinkle with some of the dill and drizzle on the vinaigrette. You want to coat the vegetables, not drown them so add a bit at a time. You may have some vinaigrette leftover. Toss and garnish with the remaining dill.

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