Not having a garden of my own, I am nevertheless one of those people whose ears prick up at the first mention of a seasonal glut. I am proudly one of nature’s scavengers, and will gladly relieve friends, family and colleagues of any and all excess veg, fruit and other that needs getting rid of. That said, even I was astounded to see quite how many runner beans my pal Loll had in her garden. Taking them home to a marrow scavenged from my parents, I rolled up my sleeves and set to work.
Runner beans are one of my favourite summer veg, and they’re nicest freshly-picked, shredded and steamed with roast meat or in a salad. But they get a bit jaded rather quickly. Here are some of my favourite things to do with runner beans – especially if you’re currently drowning in the things!
- Cut into squares, freeze, and then add in handfuls to lentil dals. The slightly slower cooking time means that the beans go soft and spicy rather than tough, and they’re a delicious addition (tip courtesy of Momma Lewishambles!)
- Stir-fry! Stir-fried runner beans act like noodles in that the outer bean sucks up sauce in much the same way as a noodle does. They’re delicious in a pad thai or a chinese black bean sauce.
- Sambal! Spicy malaysian prawn-and-chilli sauce with lots of onions and garlic is a great way to complement the crunchy beans in a slightly younger state.
- Finally… a new addition to the repertoire: Runner Bean Chutney!
Runner Bean and Marrow Chutney
makes around 2 kg – I found it made enough for 7 small jars (around 300g)
adapted from the Riverford Farm Cookbook
around 400g runner beans, trimmed, blanched and then finely sliced
around 400g marrow, finely chopped
600g finely chopped white onion
500 ml malt vinegar
3 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp mustard powder (there is only Coleman’s, people)
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted if you like (I can’t see it makes a difference to the finished chutney to toast them, but knock yourself out)
200g light soft brown sugar
400g demerara sugar
- First off, make sure your veg are prepped and ready. I say this because if you’re anything like me, you kind of prep and slice as you go along, which is lovely in theory but it takes longer than you think to finely chop onions and beans and you don’t want things sticking and burning in the meantime. In terms of quantities, don’t be shy to switch up the veg – as long as you have around 800g you’ll be grand. Try apple, courgette or even rhubarb!
- First, take a large, heavy based non-reactive saucepan and stick it over the heat. By non-reactive I mean NOT aluminium, as it tends to go funny with boiling vinegar in it. Pop in your onions and half of the vinegar, and resist the temptation to add more water. Simmer for 20 min by which time the onions will be softened and you will feel better about the lack of liquid in there.
- Add the veg, then mix a little of the remaining vinegar with the cornflour, spices and seeds, then pour this in too. Mix well, then add the rest of the vinegar and bring it up to a simmer.
- Add the sugars, and a splash of water if it looks a bit dry, then stir well to dissolve. Be careful about the amount of water you add, I added a cup and regretted it when I was boiling the heck out of the chutney for the remaining time.
- Simmer the chutney for another 50-60 minutes, by which time it will be darker, rich-smelling rather than vinegary and taste sweet and spicy. The texture will be a little thicker, like a syrup, but remember it won’t be thick – that happens once the chutney cools in the jars.
- Transfer to sterilised warm jars and seal up quickly. Store for 6-8 weeks before cracking one open to have a go.
My jars are now snuggled away in a cupboard awaiting the grand opening in November. Based on the pre-jar chutney, it’s a rich, sweet spicy treat which will go best with really strong cheddar, lancashire or gloucester cheese.