Green bean love machines


VERSATILE Green beans go well with basil pesto to make a lovely salad.  

Lots of ways to thrill your taste buds with good-for-you green beans

Redmond Cabot

Green beans and French beans are the same thing. Spanish and Portuguese explorers first introduced these legumes to Europe, and they became popular in France, where they were simply called ‘haricot verts’ – green beans – but the association with France remained.
They tend to have an exotic allure about them, again possibly because of the French connection. I’ve grown up with them, since Granny Gibbon did wonders growing them in her back garden in Sandycove.  
I know they should be good, everyone tells me so. Yet, every so often, as I crunch into a green bean, my mouth almost recoils from the slightly rubbery, oily texture, and somewhat antiseptic flavor. But on other days I absolutely hoover them off the plate. A love hate relationship if ever there was one. I find it’s ok to have this relationship with different foods, the fun part is playing around with this tension, and listening to your gut and what it wants on different days.
Green beans are also undeniably good for you. They’re high in vitamins A, C, and K, and they also contain a decent amount of calcium, as well as folate, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, magnesium and potassium.  
Many moons ago, whilst staying with cousins near the Ladbroke Grove end of Portobello Road in Dublin, we frequented a unique and amazing place by the name of Wholefoods. It had a wooden interior, helpful staff, and displays of countless bowls upon bowls of freshly made delicious salad combinations, as well as delicious trays of roasted goodies.
I remember the green beans there, served with soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds, full of umami flavours. Sometimes they came with flaked almonds or chunks of feta cheese. That was when we had ample time and money to spend, with no kids. Now we have ample kids, and…yes… you get it!
Some freshly picked green beans came in recently from well-known local Westport vegetable grower Chris Smith, and I gathered myself to replicate the tastes and sights of old. It is important to relish seasonal goods when they arrive on our doorsteps, before their frozen cousins become the only alternative. Rejoice, rejoice in fresh, seasonal produce.

Tasty combos
A warm potato and green bean salad with a soft egg is a perfect late summer lunch dish. Or try green beans with rocket, mixed through with Parmesan cheese and walnut pieces.
Green beans served with a basil, garlic and pine-nut pesto makes a tasty salad too. Adding mint to fresh green beans is another interesting taste combination you can try. There are so many taste pairings that work – these beans are just so versatile.
If you’d like to try pushing the boat out with an interesting supper dish, try spicy mozzarella aubergine halves baked dish with green beans and chickpeas. Simply halve two aubergines and cross-hatch the cut surfaces with a knife. Roast in the oven on a tin tray for 20 minutes at 180°c, with good dash of olive oil, salt, garlic and a good handful of drained chickpeas. Then scatter a handful and a half of prepared green beans and some chilli flakes around the tray. Lay some mozzarella slices on top of the aubergine halves, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and another dash of oil. Cook for another 30 minutes, and serve with freshly chopped parsley. Delicious.

Late summer green bean salad
Unlike most salads, this keeps well overnight if refrigerated and covered. And it’s just so easy to make; a great way to get the goodness of veg into you.

What you need

  • 250g green beans
  • 100g feta cheese, diced into small cubes
  • 4 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp sesame seeds

What you do
Roast the sesame seeds on a pan over medium heat until light brown (careful not to burn them!). Prepare the beans by topping and tailing them, and boiling for four mins in salted water, then straining and draining.
When they’ve cooled, simply tip into a nice salad bowl, mix the feta through, splash the lot with the soy sauce, and sprinkle your toasted sesame on top. An excellent lunch dish with bread and cold meats.
After I wrote this article, Chris called to say his lovely green beans were finished for the year. You’ll still be able to find Irish green beans in the shops though – get your hands on them now before the season ends. Variety is the spice of life!

— Redmond

The Cabot family live and work in Lanmore, outside Westport. Fresh, seasonal foods are their passion, from country markets to growing, making and selling. They love cooking and eating at the kitchen table, while Redmond and Sandra are kept on their toes with children Penny and Louis. Here they share their favourite recipes.