Lightly spiced runner beans

As is typical in August and September, we are overrun by runner beans. Wherever I turn they are there; at the market, outside The Orange Grove, in plastic bags sent over from Mum and Dad’s veg patch… they are unstoppable. Whilst aware they are not everyone’s favourite form of bean, I too will be adding to the glut myself with the new allotment at Northcliffe.

Here follows a recipe based loosely on a side dish I used to enjoy at a food stand called ‘Taste of the Nile’ which was a firm favourite at the twice weekly farmers market in Swiss Cottage, London where I was a student.

Combining sweet shallots with a hum of garlic, the earthy beans and toasty spices, this dish for me is the perfect methodology for making runner beans sing. Confidently saying ‘no’ to cooking them al dente, cutting them into strings and letting them simmer for longer really lets the bean take on the flavours in the sauce and their firm structure means they still retain a bite.

Shown here with roast kid and spuds from the yard, the spices here could be switched out with others for different occasions. Garam masala would make a nice change or on a different day perhaps ras el hanout would work well.



serves 4 as a side

  • 450g runner beans (approx 300g trimmed weight)
  • 2 banana shallots, sliced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed to a paste with olive oil and salt
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and diced finely
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • 1 tsp gound caraway
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 200ml passata (or to taste)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • pepper

You can of course prepare the runner beans however you like but I do think topped and tailed, and then passed through a bean stringer is the best way to get the most flavour into them. If you don’t have a stringer, slice finely lengthways with a sharp knife.

  1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed, medium sized stew pot over a medium heat and add the shallots and a pinch of salt. Sweat, without colour until translucent before adding the garlic and chilli. Cook out the garlic, stirring often until the raw smell has disappeared.
  2. Add your beans and toss thoroughly to coat with oil. Add the ground spices and cook out, stirring, for 1 minute.
  3. Add the passata and once simmering lower the heat and semi cover the pot. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the beans have collapsed like strands of pasta. Taste and season then remove from the heat.
  4. Leave for 30 minutes for the flavours to infuse. Reheat when ready to serve.

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