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FRESH BRITISH BEANS AND PEAS
The Traditional Taste of Summer
Fresh beans and peas are in season in Britain throughout the summer, from June to September, and are currently enjoying a welcome revival in popularity. With celebrity chefs extolling their virtues and food writers getting excited about seasonal legumes, the past few years have seen us podding and slicing our way through fresh beans and peas with renewed gusto.
Fresh, young runner and dwarf beans are amongst the many wonderful beans and peas available during the British summer. Grown here in the UK, they are tender, juicy and bursting with flavour. They are delicious simply steamed and served tossed in butter and seasoning with fish or lamb or can be used as the basis for summer salads.
Broad beans require a little work but most cooks find the rhythmic podding of beans therapeutic and well worthwhile once the beans are boiled, buttered and on the plate. Broad beans go beautifully with bacon or pancetta and are a great accompaniment to summer salmon dishes.
All legumes are good for us, providing seasonal options for those all important five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Packed with vitamins and minerals and naturally low in salt, beans and peas are one of nature’s health foods
So savour every mouthful during the British bean and pea season from its start in June to the last precious days of September.
Recipes courtesy of www.thinkvegetables.co.uk
Summer Greens with Bacon and Feta
This stir-fry of pods and beans is so pretty and summery, and if you have mint in the garden, which is growing wild as a jungle – it’s a wonderful way to use some of it.
100g sliced runner beans
200g mixed, podded peas and broad beans
150g lightly smoked bacon pieces or lardons
4 tbsp vinaigrette dressing
100g baby plum tomatoes, halved
100g feta cheese, diced
Small handful fresh young mint leaves
4 small eggs
1. Put a large pan of water on to boil. Drop in a few of the mint leaves then add the runner beans. Return to the boil and bubble for 2-3minutes before adding the broad beans and petit pois. Return to the boil and bubble for a further 5 minutes. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and drain well in a colander. Return the water to the boil, drop in the four eggs and immediately take the pan off the heat and set aside.
2. Now place a wok over a high heat. As soon as it’s very hot, add the bacon pieces and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until they are golden and beginning to crisp. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add 2 tbsp of vinaigrette to the fat in the pan, let it sizzle, then add all the vegetables with the tomatoes and mint. Stir-fry for 2 minutes then add the feta cheese and remaining vinaigrette dressing.
3. Serve the stir-fried greens with a poached egg on top.
Peas with Little Gem and Spring Onions
This French-style recipe brings out the sweetness of the peas and should be served straight away to keep their bright green colour. It is delicious served with simply cooked fish or chicken. Try frying diced smoked bacon in the butter with the spring onions for even more flavour. For a one-pot vegetable dish, add baby carrots at the same time as the spring onions and lettuce.
2 x Little Gem lettuces, cut into quarters lengthways
1 bunch spring onions, top and tailed and cut into 4cm lengths
300g shelled peas (approx 750g unshelled)
125ml vegetable stock
1/2 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the Little Gem Lettuces and the spring onions. Cover and cook gently for 1 minute shaking the pan occasionally.
2. Add the peas and coat with the butter. Pour in the stock, add the sugar and season. Cover and simmer for a further 3-4 minutes until the peas are just tender.
3. Remove the lid, increase the heat and boil for 1 minute to reduce the cooking juices by half.
4. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with the chopped chives and serve
Runner Bean Salad with Roasted Tomatoes
This quick and easy salad is bright and colourful. If you don’t have one, it is worth buying a runner bean slicing gadget which costs pennies as it makes slicing the beans so easy. Serve this salad straight away with cold meats or quiche. If you can’t get hold of fresh thyme, you can use fresh basil. This is also delicious with sliced mushrooms in place of the tomatoes.
300g cherry tomatoes
250g runner beans, top and tailed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C, gas mark 7. Place the cherry tomatoes in a roasting tin. Drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil and season.
2. Roast on the highest shelf of the oven for 8-10 minutes or until the tomatoes are just starting to pop their skins.
3. Meanwhile slice the beans into thin ribbons and blanch in boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes until just tender. Refresh under cold running water and drain well.
4. Place the beans and tomatoes on a serving dish. Remove the leaves from the thyme and mix with the remaining oil and lemon juice. Season to taste, pour over the beans and serve straight away.